Category Archives: health equity

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

NACCHO Annual Preview: Targeting Neighborhood Poverty, Education, and Health Burden through Policy and Prevention

logo_na2016_pms274This is the second in a series of NACCHO Annual preview posts, which feature interviews with and essays from presenters in advance of NACCHO Annual 2016. In this post, Gary Cox, JD, shares insights from his session, “Targeting Neighborhood Poverty, Education, and Health Burden through Local Public Health Policy and Prevention across Oklahoma County.” Cox brings more than 35 years of public health experience and leadership skills to his role as executive director of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department. He is a past president of both NACCHO and the Oklahoma Public Health Association. Below Cox shares his advice for LHDs pursuing health equity and his experience forging partnerships with local entities committed to improving community health.

NACCHO: You open your presentation with the idea that health outcomes are influenced by complex social and physical indicators. How do you address this reality in your health department’s pursuit of a culture of health equity?

Gary Cox: We have a basic philosophy as a local health department that we should analyze data and look at where we have inequities and disparities in our community. We have what we call a wellness score: It is about 22 data points, ranging from educational attainment and graduation rates to crime rates, mortality/morbidity rates, hospital room visits, hospital discharge data, and so on. It comes from a very wide variety of sources gathered together to create a cumulative comparative index, zip code by zip code, of our county.

Continue reading

Using the Roots of Health Inequity: An Interview with Public Health Nurse Jennifer Weitzel

Jennifer Weitzel, MS, RN

Jennifer Weitzel, MS, RN

By Tiffany J. Huang, MPH, Program Analyst, Assessment and Planning

NACCHO’s Roots of Health Inequity Web-based course offers a learning opportunity for public health practitioners, partners, and students to explore health inequities. How can local health departments use the course? We interviewed Jennifer Weitzel, MS, RN, a public health nurse at Public Health Madison & Dane County in Wisconsin, to hear about her health department’s experience.

How are you using the Roots of Health Inequity course in your health department?

Our health department hosts student interns from across disciplines and levels, from bachelor’s-level nursing students to doctoral students. Our largest cohorts are usually during the summer. While they are typically recruited to work on a particular project, we also engage them in additional activities that, until recently, I facilitated. For the past two summers, we’ve used the Roots course. Continue reading