3016.0 Addressing Health Inequities: Health Department Strategies

Monday, October 29, 2012: 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Health inequities in the United States are well-documented, with individuals from lower-status socioeconomic groups having higher incidences of chronic diseases, higher mortality, and poorer overall health outcomes. For decades, the public health field has strived to better understand health inequities with an increasing awareness they are driven by social inequities. Public health departments (PHDs) charged with safe-guarding the publicís health across the country are developing and implementing strategies to address this growing problem and the social determinants behind it. This session will highlight some of the innovative strategies that local and state health departments are employing to both change their organizational structures and policies as well as the focus and execution of their programs aimed at all stages of the lifespan. The session is being organized by the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII), a collaborative of the eleven local PHDs of the San Francisco Bay Area region who formed in 2005 to transform public health practice to achieve health equity and to build healthier communities. BARHIIís primary focus is increasing the capacity of PHDs to address the underlying social conditions that contribute to disproportionate rates of preventable disease and death in certain communities and on the institutional policies and practices that shape those conditions. BARHII provides a forum in which PHDs can learn from each other as they attempt to change their practice, develop and disseminate best practices, and engage more effectively in activities at a regional level, including policy advocacy and interaction with regulatory and planning agencies. The panel discussion will commence with a brief introduction and review of BARHIIís work to address health inequities including an overview of publications and policy advocacy activities that have been produced. This will be followed by four presentations from public health departments representing different parts of the country. Following the presentations, there will be a discussion period. This first presentation will be from the Columbus (Ohio) Public Health Department on its experience utilizing and adapting BARHIIís Organizational Self-Assessment for Addressing Health Inequities, a tool that was developed for use by local health departments. It will also highlight the organizational and programmatic changes that are being developed as a result of the assessment results. Following will be a presentation from the Washington State Department of Health describing the process and tools it has developed to institutionalize the addition of health equity language to staff job descriptions and annual performance expectation plans. The next presentation from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment will describe the development of a model focusing on the social determinants of health across the life course that has been used to collect and analyze data to address health equity in program and policy planning. The final presentation will be from the Alameda County (California) Department of Public Health. This presentation will share its use of data and research to advance policies that impact social and health inequities and its successes in connecting its programs and services to all of these policy areas.
Session Objectives: Compare different strategies being utilized by local and state public health departments to address health inequities. Identify available tools for use by health departments to increase organizational capacity to address health inequities. Explain the importance of tailoring the available tools to local health department needs. Identify one process for developing and implementing health equity language into staff job descriptions and performance expectations. List how a model to address health equity has influenced data collection and organizational improvement processes across programs and local public health agencies. Describe why engaging in local policy work that impacts social determinants of health is a critical strategy for local health departments who are working to achieve health equity. List the concrete steps local health departments can take to build their capacity to engage in local policy work.

Health Equity through Policy Change: A Local Health Department's Story
Alexandra Desautels, MSW, Kimi Watkins-Tartt and Rebecca Flournoy

See individual abstracts for presenting author's disclosure statement and author's information.

Organized by: APHA-Special Sessions
Endorsed by: Medical Care, Public Health Nursing, Socialist Caucus, Black Caucus of Health Workers, Caucus on Homelessness, Community Health Planning and Policy Development

CE Credits: Medical (CME), Health Education (CHES), Nursing (CNE), Public Health (CPH) , Masters Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES)

See more of: APHA-Special Sessions