National Public Health Week
Spotlight: National Public Health Week
National Public Health Week Focus on Nutrition and Food
Food and nutrition are at the core of many public health concerns, from chronic disease to climate change. In 2021, 10.4% of Americans (33.8 million people, including 9.3 million children) lived in households that experienced food insecurity, meaning they lacked access to adequate nutritious foods. Children need a balanced diet to grow into healthy adults and long-term food insecurity can lead to serious illness, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and mental health issues. Food-insecure families also face difficult decisions like choosing between buying groceries or paying for health care. The federal government offers food safety net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and free school meals, but many food-insecure families are ineligible because of income level, immigration status and other factors.
GCOM supports WIC by maintaining the essential systems that provide WIC benefits to participants and being responsive to urgent needs when they occur. For example, in response to the national formula shortage that occurred in 2022, GCOM rapidly modified the program’s enterprise systems and participant mobile apps so families could purchase a wider array of approved baby formulas.
National Public Health Week Focus on Accessibility
About 26% of U.S. adults have a disability, though Native Americans and senior citizens are disproportionately affected by disabilities. Adults with disabilities are also more likely to have heart disease, be smokers and have diabetes than the general population. To move toward health equity, it’s critical we recognize that people with disabilities are facing health disparities. One in three adults with disabilities does not have a primary health care provider, and one in three adults with disabilities has unmet health care needs due to financial cost.
National Public Health Week Focus on Rural Health
Fourteen percent of Americans live in rural areas. Rural Americans have higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes. Compared to urban residents, they are at higher risk for poor health outcomes because of the range of health disparities they face. Racial/ethnic minorities and tribal groups are at higher risk for poor health outcomes, compared to non-Hispanic white adults. These health disparities include poverty, food deserts, also known as food apartheid, exposure to specific environmental hazards and less time for leisurely physical activity. People living in rural areas have less access to health care because of fewer providers and facilities and more transportation barriers. They are also not as likely to have health insurance. These factors play a part in the greater risk of death from heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease and unintentional injury from motor vehicle crashes and opioid overdoses that rural residents face. Children living in rural areas also face greater challenges with their development, mental health and behavioral health. Youth working on farms are at higher risk of injuries. They are 7.8 times more likely to die because of a work injury compared to youth in other jobs.
GCOM supported Montana’s Community Health Insights in the 406 public health data platform so that Montana can continuously share data that helps stakeholders understand the unique health risk factors and challenges facing rural communities. Community Health Insights in the 406 will enable Montana state leaders to make evidence-based decisions and provide responsive, user-friendly analytics and visualization tools to users, with a goal of improving health outcomes within communities throughout the state. Read the press release HERE.
National Public Health Week Focus on Mental Health
Mental health is important at every stage of life. It continuously affects how we think, feel and act. It also plays an important role in our physical and social well-being. In the U.S. alone, millions of Americans are affected by a mental illness, including substance use disorders. Cases of mental illness have recently risen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rates of anxiety, depression and substance use disorder have increased, particularly for communities of color.
GCOM’s more than 5 years of work with Virginia on substance use disorder is focused on reducing substance use disorder fatalities. GCOM has supported Virginia on several innovative approaches including:
- Tracking fatal overdoses involving multiple substances, which have been on the rise in communities across the United States for several years, according to the CDC. That’s one reason why efforts to reduce opioid overdoses must also include methods of tracking the use of emerging substances or common additives. Otherwise, by the time a drug is on the radar of the general public, many lives have already been lost. States Can Save Lives by Sharing Data about Polysubstance Overdoses | GCOM (gcomsoft.com)
- Incorporating peer recovery specialists – peers who has had personal successful in the recovery process and helps others in similar situations. A PRS can help ensure that agency interventions meet residents where they are and work in the real world by using their own experiences and sharing a level of understanding. Depending on the program, a PRS might engage in a wide range of activities. They might advocate for people in recovery, build community relationships, provide services or training, analyze data in the context of lived experience, educate policymakers and the public, administer programs, and more. Why Your Organization Needs a Peer Recovery Specialist, and How to Achieve the Best Return on That Investment | GCOM (gcomsoft.com)
National Public Health Week Focus on Reproductive and Sexual Health
The lack of inclusive and accessible reproductive and sexual health care and education negatively affects everyone, but marginalized communities carry a greater burden of harm. Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.
GCOM’s 19 years of experience supporting 3 million (48%) of the county’s WIC enrollees in accessing prenatal nutrition and health screening services helps ensure that moms are healthy prior to a child’s arrival and that both mom and baby have access to food, health screening, and nutrition services until children are 5 years old. Three Sigma – South Carolina WIC Customer Story (gcomsoft.com)
National Public Health Week Focus on Violence Prevention
About one in three women and one in four men experience some form of intimate partner violence, and one out of every four American women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape. In 2020, 618,000 victims of child abuse and neglect were reported to local officials. Not all communities face the same rates or kinds of violence. For example, Black people are two times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts.
GCOM’s work with Virginia on an innovative digital platform, Virginia Analysis System for Trafficking (VAST) helps stakeholders quickly access data on incidents, victims, offenders and arrests. They can view color-coded maps of these details by county across the state. They can also see breakdowns of incidents and arrests for trafficking that involves sex versus forced labor.
National Public Health Week Focus on Community
Community is where we are. It’s our connections with others who share similar interests, attitudes and goals. There are also other conditions in our communities that impact our health and well-being called social determinants of health. People living just a few blocks apart may have very different life expectancies because of the safety of the neighborhood they live in or the quality of their schools. Transportation barriers and lack of health insurance can limit access to health services. This can increase the risk of harmful health behaviors like skipping medication or postponing care. Having to travel long distances to access nutritious foods is linked to food insecurity. This puts communities at higher risk for chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. There are also negative environmental health conditions like poor air quality that can result in cancer and lung and heart diseases.
GCOM has been helping state and local government with streamlined data platforms showcasing how the social determinants of health impact communities while also strengthening community partnerships to improve community health outcomes. Read more about our work throughout National Public Health Week:
-GCOM Leadership Team