Jefferson County, Colo. — The new year is a time for reflection and hope. It’s a time to look back at the things we’ve done well — and the ways we can continue to improve in the future. In past years, Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) has encouraged the public to make New Year’s resolutions to better their health. This year, in addition to encouraging people to make positive changes, we want to share our resolve to do more to better the health of the community.
But to do that, we can’t just talk about changing health at the surface. We have to also talk about what is causing disparities in the health of our community in the first place. This year, JCPH is committing to investing our time, our work and our hearts to advancing health equity in Jefferson County.
“At JCPH, we define health equity as the attainment of the highest level of health possible for all individuals. This requires focused societal and environmental efforts to deal with avoidable inequalities, historical injustices and the elimination of health disparities,” said Dr. Mark B. Johnson, Executive Director of JCPH. “We have to tackle inequities among Jefferson County communities — including racial and ethnic minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, our seniors, people living with disabilities, and low-socioeconomic and geographic populations.”
The way to address these larger issues is to start by talking about the determinants of health. Access to healthy food, safe housing, transportation, education, healthcare and other social and economic factors — such as race and poverty — are factors that impact health, but are often not decided by individual behavior. These elements disproportionately impact some sectors of the population more negatively than others.
According to 2016 U.S. Census estimates, about 20 percent of Jefferson County’s population is comprised of racial and ethnic minorities, the largest of which is the Latino community. There are more than 85,000 seniors in the county, and about 1 in 12 people live below the poverty line. These groups, among others, face poorer health and societal outcomes.
Jefferson County Public Health has already begun incorporating health equity into its work. In 2016, the Health Equity and Environmental Justice Collaborative (“Collaborative”) was formed to create a department-wide policy regarding health equity and to help advance the conversation and action within the organization.
“The Collaborative was formed by a group of staff members who saw an opportunity to advance the health equity work already happening at JCPH,” said Jim Rada, Director of Environmental Health Services and member of the Collaborative. “Our goal is to make sure JCPH is doing everything we can to ensure the best health possible for all people.”
In addition to the work of the Collaborative, JCPH will:
The first step to creating a better, healthier community is recognizing there is room to grow. At JCPH, we resolve to prioritize health equity, and by doing so, to put the people of Jefferson County first. We invite you to join us.
For additional information about health equity, explore the following resources:
About Jefferson County Public Health
Public health is what we as a society do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan through prevention, education and partnerships for all people. To learn more about JCPH, visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth.