Category Archives: health equity

Fostering Agency Through Local Public Health

By Grenadier, Andrea, BA; Holtgrave, Peter, MPH, MA; Aldridge, Chris, MSW, NACCHO

This article originally ran in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.

When public health departments support all aspects of the public’s well-being—beginning with striking at the roots of health inequity—it can create transformational change. Part of this process is encouraging people in communities to determine their own futures, to express agency; something that is rooted in action and power. So, how does local public health get there?

We already have examples of success. For instance, local health departments have been at the forefront of health equity work by building internal capacity and infrastructure, fostering strategic community partnerships to build power and engage in social justice work, and working across government agencies to develop shared ownership for health equity.

However, although these examples exist, all too often public health’s efforts fail to improve population health—often because of the fear of failure.

There is fear of trying new initiatives that might not work out. There is fear of running out of time, will, allies, and money. There is fear of not meeting funders’ expectations, even when their expectations do not align with the community’s needs. There is fear of going against the governing bodies, such as mayors and other officials, even when their agendas may conflict with the community’s needs. And underlying all of this is the fear of losing ever-dwindling vital resources.

Addressing the roots of health inequity requires operating out of a social justice—and not just a medical—framework. In their role as scientists, public health practitioners can no longer shy away from addressing issues of unequal power and structural bias, such as racism.

The Seattle-based Bridging Health and Community is dedicated to exploring health from the perspective of communities. Its Creating Health Collaborative comprises innovators exploring health from the perspective of people and communities and how that perspective influences local efforts to create it. The Collaborative came to focus on the importance of agency to health and developed 12 Principles1 that describe inclusive, participatory, and responsive process to holistically shift how healthy communities might be developed.

Read the full article in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.

NACCHO Annual 2018: Take a Glimpse into New Orleans Public Health

Interview by Taylarr Lopez, Communications Specialist, NACCHO

Torrie Harris, Dr.P.H., MPH is a Health & Equity Strategist at the New Orleans Health Department (NOHD). In the following post, she discusses her role within the department, shares how NOHD is addressing the public health burdens of maternal and infant issues and mental health, and highlights the fun things NACCHO Annual 2018 conference attendees can do during their visit to New Orleans. Continue reading

Local Public Health Spreads Importance of Good Oral Health during Children’s Dental Health Month

By Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, NACCHO President and Executive Director of Harris County Public Health in Houston, Texas

The oral cavity, including the teeth and surrounding structures, are necessary for adequate nutrition, proper speech and a positive self-image.  Although tooth decay is largely preventable, it continues to be the most common chronic disease of early childhood.1  Dental health can impact school performance when a child has untreated tooth decay with resulting pain that affects their ability to concentrate, sleep at night or even attend school, “more than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental related illness.”2 Taxpayers share approximately 11% of the $113.5 billion spent nationally on dental care expenditures, a percentage that has increased over the years as dental care utilization continues to increase among children.3  Children with cavities in their primary (baby) teeth are three times more likely to develop cavities in their permanent (adult) teeth which could contribute to broader health problems including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.4 Continue reading

Health Equity Matters: Bridging the Gap between Underserved Populations and Access to Care

By Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, NACCHO President and Executive Director of Harris County Public Health in Houston, Texas

What is Health Equity?

Public health is built on the foundation that all people have a right to health. Health equity is the principle that every person should have the opportunity “to attain their full health potential,” regardless of social, economic or environmental conditions. Achieving health equity requires valuing all individuals and populations equally, acknowledging and repairing historical injustices, and investing in those communities. Across the United States, state and local jurisdictions have made it their mission to reduce and eliminate health inequities in their communities. There are many root causes of health inequities, including racism, class-based oppression, gender inequity, and other forms of systematic injustices. These create societal conditions that influence an individual’s health such as: the quality of education, housing, neighborhood environment, and employment opportunities leading to disproportionate health outcomes, to name a few. Continue reading

Mass Incarceration and Racism Policy

By LaMar Hasbrouck, MD, MPH, Executive Director, NACCHO

According to civil rights attorney and former Stanford University Law Professor Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, there are currently more black men in prison or jail, on probation, or on parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.

The United States holds the dubious distinction of incarcerating more individuals than any other nation. According the latest Department of Justice (DOJ) statistics, approximately 2.2 million men and women are currently imprisoned. The U.S. rate is nearly 5 to 10 times higher than rates in Western Europe and other democracies. Continue reading

LHD of the Year Award Winner Harris County Public Health Focuses on Closing the Gap on Health Inequity in its Community

lhdaward-fornaccho-lowresBy Taylarr Lopez, Communications Specialist, NACCHO

NACCHO is pleased to recognize Harris County Public Health (HCPH) as a recipient of the 2016 Local Health Department of the Year Award. This award recognizes and honors outstanding accomplishments of local health departments (LHDs) across the country for their innovation, creativity, and impact on communities.

HCPH provides comprehensive public health services to Harris County, Texas—the third most populous county in the United States. It has an annual budget of over $80 million and a workforce of more than 700 employees.

HCPH’s serves approximately 2.2 million people within the county’s unincorporated areas and 33 independent municipalities (excluding the city of Houston). For certain public health services such as mosquito control, Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Part A, and refugee health, HCPH’s jurisdiction encompasses the entirety of the county, including the city of Houston, for a total population of more than 4 million. Continue reading

LHD of the Year Award Winner, the Kansas City Missouri Health Department, Works Toward Health Equity and Social Justice

lhdaward-fornaccho-lowresBy Taylarr Lopez, Communications Specialist, NACCHO

NACCHO is pleased to recognize the Kansas City (MO) Health Department as a recipient of the 2016 Local Health Department of the Year Award. This award recognizes and honors outstanding accomplishments of local health departments (LHDs) across the country for their innovation, creativity, and impact on communities.

Kansas City, MO, is a diverse urban community in the heart of the Midwest with a population of 459,787 people. The Kansas City Missouri Health Department (KCMOHD) has protected the population’s health for 150 years and operates with a mission to promote, preserve, and protect the health of Kansas City residents and visitors. KCMOHD employs 200 staff through various programs, some which are active in both Missouri and Kansas. Programs and services strive to prevent illness and injuries, improve health services, enforce public health laws, and support policy development to build a healthier community. Continue reading