Healthy People 2020 is an initiative that aims at closing health information gaps across communities in the United States (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), 2019). By making available comparative data, the Healthy People 2020 has enabled policymakers and stakeholders to adopt practical strategies aimed at ensuring all citizens can access quality healthcare. The County Health Rankings (CHR) reports are an important part of the Healthy People initiative (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) & University of Wisconsin Population Health Institutions (PHI), 2019).
Engaging multiple stakeholders in the presentation of health reports is important because of the diverse demographics that make up communities. Additionally, the variations in how the Federal, State, and County administrations handle health issues require the presentation of actionable data (ODPHP, 2019). For example, household income, commercial activities, availability of natural resources and so forth determine how much revenue accrues to the various levels of government and consequently, their budgets. For instance, data from the 2019 CHR report, housing segregated along racial and ethnic lines continues to pose a major challenge to the dissemination of timely health information to different communities (RWJF & PHI, 2019). The concentration of people identifying as a specific demographic at a specific location means that policymakers have to prepare and disseminate reports in a manner that addresses the subjective interpretation of health information.
Improving health outcomes in communities across the country entails not only establishing health centers that are readily accessible but also disseminating actionable information to the demographics health centers serve (ODPHP, 2019). Additionally, health outcomes are also contingent on a number of other variables such as housing, income, literacy levels, race, ethnicity, and legal status among others. To illustrate, in Georgia 15% of the households spend more than half their income on housing expenses, meaning the affected households cannot afford better healthcare options (RWJF & PHI, 2019). Further, data indicate that households spending over half their income on rent also struggle with inadequate nutrition, educational opportunities, and unemployment.
Making health information available to the public, particularly among those demographics that can least access it such as the homeless, households in inner cities and rust belts, as well as, newly arrived immigrants, is fundamental to closing health gaps. Quality health information is of little use unless it is readily accessible and understandable by the public. Consequently, access to readily understandable health information is crucial to improving community health across the nation.
In the State of Georgia, Forsyth County ranked first in the 2019 CHR report, while Warren County came in last (RWJF & PHI, 2019). The report placed DeKalb 16th in the rankings. Forsyth County, in comparison to Warren, differed in a number of health factors and outcomes. To illustrate, communities in Forsyth County experienced low levels of premature deaths, with the 2019 CHR report indicating 4,300 deaths in that county against Warren’s 15,400. Other health outcomes such as life expectancy, frequent physical distress and HIV prevalence, though not included in the overall rankings, serve to highlight the significance of health information gaps across communities in Georgia (RWJF & PHI, 2019). According to the 2019 CHR report, communities in Forsyth’s had a life expectancy of 81.5 against Warren’s 71.8. Forsyth’s life expectancy is significant because it topped the top U.S. longevity performers at 81.0 and Georgia State’s 77.7 (RWJF & PHI, 2019). At 15%, Warren County’s frequent physical distress almost doubles Forsyth’s 8%, with HIV prevalence in the county standing at 360 compared to Forsyth’s 64 (RWJF & PHI, 2019). These few health outcome indicators, alongside health factors such as children in poverty, high school graduation, and violent crime are indicative of the need to adopt health information dissemination strategies to meet Healthy People 2020 objectives (ODPHP, 2019).
DeKalb County’s rankings did not deviate significantly from those of the State of Georgia, with the county performing better in some indicators in comparison. For example, the median household income in the county according to the 2019 CHR Rankings and Roadmap Report was $61,500 compared to the State’s $56,100 (RWJF & PHI, 2019). Still, the median household income compares poorly with housing cost burden, which in DeKalb stood at 17% compared to the State’s 15%. Further, the county’s severe housing problems stood at 21% compared to the States 18% (RWJF & PHI, 2019). Additionally, the report places residential segregation among the black and white demographics in DeKalb at 73 compared to states’ 58. These examples of health factor indicators highlight the challenges healthcare policymakers and stakeholders face in bridging health information gaps in communities across the county. For example, the segregated housing in the county suggests that healthcare policymakers have to adopt innovative ways to get key information to the different communities, taking into account factors such as the level of education, income, and employment rates among others. Varying the dissemination of health information enables policymakers to positively influence the healthcare decisions of marginalized segments in the community.
In conclusion, improving health in communities nationwide will involve more than improving health insurance enrollment. As the foregoing demonstrates, factors such as housing, literacy, lifestyle patterns, and parenthood status all contribute to better health outcomes. Other factors such as race and ethnicity and lately, the legal status of residency also play a critical role in the extent to which affected households can access health. Vulnerable demographics such as the homeless, veterans, and the disabled also highlight major health information gaps. The completeness of health data, and the timeliness of its dissemination are important factors in sensitizing communities about healthcare-related issues. Additionally, Warren County demonstrates that disseminating health information to poorly served demographics require additional national and state resources.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation & University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (2019). County Health Rankings and Roadmaps. Retrieved from http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/app/georgia/2019/overview
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (2019). 2020 Leading Health Indicator Topics. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/leading-health-indicators/2020-LHI-Topics
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (2019). Who’s leading the healthcare indicators? Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/LHI/whosleading.aspx
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (2019). Public health 3.0. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/tools-resources/public-health-3
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