Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — Health equity, education and economic stability for all North Carolinians are key strategies in the 2022 North Carolina State Health Improvement Plan (NC SHIP), which the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released on Tuesday.
NC SHIP builds upon the NCDHHS 2021-2023 Strategic Plan, and NCDHHS’s priorities — improving behavioral health and resiliency, strengthening child and family well-being, and building a strong and inclusive workforce. A major focus of NC SHIP is advancing health equity by reducing disparities in opportunity and outcomes for historically marginalized populations across the state.
“Healthy people and healthy communities are the foundation of a thriving, prosperous state,” said Dr. Susan Kansagra, NCDHHS assistant secretary for public health. “This is why we need to ensure every North Carolinian has the opportunity to be healthy, regardless of their race or ethnicity, where they live or how much money they have.”
The 2022 NC State Health Improvement plan is a companion document to Healthy North Carolina 2030, which was published in 2020 by NCDHHS and the North Carolina Institute of Medicine. Healthy North Carolina 2030 lays out ambitious goals to improve the health of North Carolinians for this decade and is intended to mobilize health organizations across the state to work together toward a common set of objectives. The 2022 NC SHIP provides additional detail on the strategies and process being used to achieve improvements on the Healthy North Carolina 2030 indicators.
For example, there is an urgent need to reduce North Carolina’s infant mortality rate and address the fact that black babies in our state are 2.5 times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies. Medical, educational, economic, environmental and social factors all play a role in infant mortality. These factors include whether a mother has a safe place to live, food to eat or access to medical care. In alignment with NCDHHS’s child and family well-being priority, NC SHIP lays out a shared goal, an accountable process, and partnerships to reduce infant mortality and address racial disparities.
NC SHIP uses Healthy North Carolina 2030’s population health model to propose policies and programs that address the factors that affect quality of life and life expectancy: social and economic factors, health behaviors, physical environment and access to health care with a focus on 21 population-level measures. NCDHHS will track progress on the 21 indicators in Healthy North Carolina 2030 using Clear Impact Scorecard, a web-based tool tracking progress on the proposed programs and policies in NC SHIP such as, racial gaps in infant mortality, severe housing problems and poverty.
Proposed policy initiatives in NC SHIP include efforts to address the intersection between behavioral health and the criminal justice system such as ensuring access to behavioral health treatment and adequate medical care for those returning from incarceration. NC SHIP also includes proposals to improve access to health care by addressing the workforce crisis, with a focus on policies to help rural areas and historically marginalized populations.
“We know that common objectives and aligned work across multiple sectors are essential for making meaningful, lasting change,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, NCDHHS state health director and chief medical officer. “We encourage partners to identify those Healthy North Carolina 2030 indicators your organization can adopt and become involved in the process of making lasting, positive change.”
NCDHHS, the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation, the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers and the North Carolina Institute of Medicine worked in partnership in building NC SHIP. NC SHIP is led by the NC SHIP Community Council of organizational partners, community members and NCDHHS staff. Through a series of meetings held during the last calendar year the group refined the improvement process and identified initial potential policy options. Together, the group uses Results-Based Accountability, a disciplined way of thinking that uses data to get from talk to action quickly using plain language and common sense.