Trends Highlight Importance of Ongoing Work by Local Health Departments to Address Causes of Inequities
About the National Association of County and City Health Officials
Washington, DC (January 13, 2011)— The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), whose vision is health, equity, and well-being for all people in their communities through local public health policies and service, commends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for demonstrating its commitment to reducing health disparities and inequalities by releasing a new report today. The CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report—2011, the first in a series of reports planned for release by the agency, examines disparities in healthcare access, exposure to environmental hazards, death rates, illness rates, behavioral risk factors, and social determinants of health. The CDC report was released as an MMWR Supplement and is available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/ind2011_su.html.
"This report highlights a fundamental role of the local, state, and federal governmental public health system to gather and report data that describe the health status of the nation," said Robert M. Pestronk, executive director of NACCHO. "Local health departments are increasingly engaged in community partnerships to address the root causes of health inequities, thereby keeping people healthier in the first place."
Local health departments across the country that are devising innovative approaches to tackling health inequity on a variety of fronts include Louisville, Boston, and Milwaukee. Each has established a Center for Health Equity within their departments. The Alameda County Department of Public Health published one of the first studies to demonstrate the relation between health and the housing foreclosure crisis. Since 2003, the San Francisco Department of Public Health has addressed health inequity in the context of land use development to ensure that land use decisions take into account the impact on community health resources. Their approach involves a critical analysis of land use plans and development projects and applies existing public health, urban planning, and social science evidence to comprehensive environmental and social assessment. This strategy, plus a community engagement process to build consensus, promotes health equity by acting on the forces that generate social and economic inequities that lead to health inequity, such as segregated housing or locating hazardous waste in communities of color.
The nation's local health departments are a cornerstone of the nation's public health system. Local health departments lead efforts that protect the public by preventing disease, promoting health, and working to reduce health disparities and inequalities. They help create and maintain conditions in communities that support health and reduce inequities by promoting access to nutritious foods and exercise, and discouraging tobacco use, among others.
In 2010, NACCHO surveyed a sample of local health departments nationwide to measure the impact of current economic conditions on local health department budgets, workforce, and programs. The report, released in May 2010, showed that the recession and budget cuts at the federal, state, and local levels have caused local health departments to reduce their workforce by 25,500 jobs, or 15 percent. These cumulative reductions in staff are compromising local health departments' abilities to improving the public's health. To speak with a local health official with an expertise in health equity and social justice, contact Alisa Blum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow news about local health department budget cuts and innovative health department programs aimed at keeping people from getting the flu at www.naccho.org/newsmap.
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation's 2,800 local governmental health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities.