What will Public Health 3.0 — new model for building healthier communities across America — mean for the nation’s nearly 3,000 local public health departments (LHDs), as they face the ongoing challenge of tackling the full range of factors that influence each citizen’s overall health and well-being? NACCHO and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) are working together to define what this means in practical terms trying to help LHDs refine their efforts to address the social determinants of health in the communities in which they serve. Continue reading
This story originally ran in NACCHO’s Preparedness Brief
National health security is a state in which the nation and its people are prepared for, protected from, and resilient in the face of incidents with health consequences. Local health department’s (LHDs) day-to-day operations impact National Health Security across the country on a regular basis. Every time a staff member run a vaccination clinic or spearheads a disease prevention campaign, these efforts also improve health security. Every time an LHD helps track a disease outbreak or connect people with personal health services, like preventive or health promotion services, the agency gives health security a direct boost. Every time LHD staff plan how to coordinate the delivery of drugs, supplies and provisions to disaster survivors and populations at risk or push a colleague to keep his or her knowledge and skills up-to-date, they are also advancing our nation’s health security. Continue reading
By Folashade Osibanjo, MPH, CLC, Program Analyst, Breastfeeding Project
As the annual commemoration of Infant Mortality Awareness Month draws to a close, let’s reaffirm our commitment to protect the lives of all children in our communities. Local health department (LHDs), in particular, have a unique opportunity to redouble their efforts to reduce infant deaths by promoting community-based preventative services, strengthening partnerships, and by cultivating new alliances to ensure that every baby lives to celebrate his or her first birthday. Addressing infant mortality is of public health importance because the health of the most vulnerable is an indicator of the well-being of our entire population. Continue reading
By Ian Goldstein, Government Affairs & Senior Web and Digital Media Specialist, NACCHO
As a member of NACCHO’s Government Affairs team for over two years, I have been to Capitol Hill to advocate for policies and funding that support local health departments. I take great pride in helping voice the concerns of NACCHO’s members and educate Congressional staff about everything local health departments do to keep their communities healthy and safe. Many public health issues I advocate for are grounded in professional morals and ethics, but on March 1, my professional role became personal. I lost my 17-year-old cousin, Alexia Springer, to a prescription drug overdose. Continue reading
Vitas Healthcare and No Limit Health and Education presented NACCHO President Dr. Swannie Jett with the 2015 Global Leadership Award at the Community Champion Awards Brunch held Aug. 29 in Lake Mary, Florida. Jett, who is health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County, received the award for exemplifying community leadership by building strong partnerships with local organizations and for improving the health of Seminole County residents.
By Laurence Polsky, MD, MPH, FACOG, Health Officer, Calvert County (MD) Health Department
On Aug. 25, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and several of his staff joined health officers Meena Brewster (St. Mary’s County, MD), Dianna Abney (Charles County, MD), and me at the Calvert County Health Department. For an hour and a half, we discussed issues affecting public health in our southern Maryland communities. Congressman Hoyer is second in the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
We talked to Congressman Hoyer about the challenges local health departments face in light of post-recession and sequester budget cuts, how local health departments are adjusting to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and actions we have taken to help stem opiate addiction in his district.
Dr. Abney spoke about difficulties providing accessible healthcare to underserved areas of Charles County and the work her department is doing to help these residents. Dr. Brewster spoke about the 10 essential services of public health and how budget issues and the loss of the Community Transformation Grant have impacted her health department. All three of us also discussed our concern that budget cuts have diminished our disaster response capabilities.
Calvert County has struggled with a 50% increase in transportation costs for Medicaid enrollees since the launch of the ACA. This served as an entry point to talk about the unforeseen sequelae of the new healthcare law and the strain it puts on safety net providers.
We ended on a bright note, underscoring the unique position that local health departments play in community health. In response to the impact that substance abuse has had on our region and the resource limitations we have in our rural jurisdiction, Calvert County Health Department has launched a program aimed at pregnant woman struggling with addiction. Our Healthy Beginnings program illustrates the potential for a local health department to bring together traditionally isolated private and public resources. In coordination with local obstetricians, the program brings together substance abuse and mental health counseling; social services; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program; smoking cessation classes; expanded transportation help; coordination with prenatal care; enrollment in ACA plans; and case management all under one roof.
We are indebted to NACCHO’s Government Affairs staff for helping to arrange the visit by Congressman Hoyer as part of an effort to educate Members of Congress about the health challenges faced by local health departments as we try to improve the health and safety of our residents.
I encourage all my colleagues at local health departments to pursue opportunities to invite Members of Congress and their staff to visit you and learn about what you do. This was an invaluable opportunity to raise our visibility and make sure that when decisions are made in Washington, our elected representative has a picture of how those decisions will affect our community.
By Ian Goldstein, Web and New Media Specialist
The following is an excerpt from NACCHO’s latest podcast featuring Gretchen Sampson, Director, Polk County (WI) Health Department, and Julie Willems Van Dijk, Associate Scientist at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
NACCHO: Community health assessments and community health improvement plans (CHAs/CHIPS) are essential and complex functions of a local health department. Julie, you’re in research and Gretchen, your work is practice-based. How are your skill sets complementary and how have the integrated findings of your two projects made a difference?
Sampson: Well, our skill sets are very complementary because Julie has done what I do in her previous life and is very familiar with what practice involves at the local level. I think we both know that to do community health improvement work, it’s all about relationships—relationships with partners and with the people that live in your community. I think that’s how we accomplish what we do, by really nurturing those relationships throughout the years and calling on those partners when we want to look at the health of our population and plan strategies to deal with health focus areas identified.
Willems Van Dijk: Yes, I definitely agree with Gretchen. One of the things we have been able to do with the project that we’ve presented at NACCHO is look at this in a truly integrated way between practice and research. One component of the project has been looking at doing an environmental scan with our local health departments and finding out what their needs are and being very responsive in terms of addressing many of those needs right away, in real time. Another component of the project has been studying what’s already been done in our state. Wisconsin is somewhat unique in that for over 20 years, we’ve had a requirement that local health departments conduct community health assessments, so we’re really a rich source of data around this topic. We’ve been able, through the University of Wisconsin and a practice-based research network grant, to study what has already happened in terms of community health assessment and improvement plans.
I have to echo what Gretchen said about that as a researcher: The practice community really informed me and said to me, “You can’t do a study of the quality of community health assessments and improvement plans simply from looking at paper documents or Web-based documents; you really need our input.” So, as part of the study design, we not only reviewed the paper documents and what was available online, but we also did a survey with local health officers to get their input on the quality of their community health assessment and improvement planning process. We had a really good response rate, upwards of 75 percent on those surveys and I really think it is because people knew me, knew that this work was really going to be used in an effective way to move progress forward.
Hear more from this interview, including Sampson and Willem Van Dijk’s lessons learned from integrating research and practice to improve the CHA/CHIP process, by listening to the podcast.