Posted By Hope Alfaro On April 27, 2017
Recently we published an interview with Julia Caplan, the program manager for California Public Health’s Health in All Policies Task Force. The American Public Health Association describes Health in All Policies as a collaborative approach to improve health by incorporating health considerations into decision-making across all policy areas. Similarly, NACCHO’s Environmental Health in All Policies (EHiAP) Project aims to increase awareness among decision makers and other stakeholders about the environmental public health implications of policies and to build the capacity of local health departments to be involved in cross-sector work with the goal of improving the health of the community. The Health in All Policies banner is one being taken up increasingly by States and Cities looking to improve the overall health of their communities and not just treat disease as it happens.
It is easy to see the implication of environmental health on the physical health and wellbeing of the public. Policies to improve infrastructure for safe housing, support science and improvements for climate change, and improving the quality of air for constituents can have obvious and immediate effects. But how can we also take in to account the mental and emotional wellbeing of people from natural disasters caused by climate change or unsafe housing?
A report the American Psychological Association released on March 29, in partnership with Climate for Health and ecoAmerica, lays out how the change in weather, agriculture and livability patterns—all steadily increasing due to climate change—negatively impact the mental health of those experiencing and harboring the trauma of such changes. The 36-page document explains it can lead to PTSD, stress and anxiety. Children and infants seem to be the ones who feel these effects the most, setting up for future mental and behavioral health issues. Survivors of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy suffer from the most immediate health impacts. These individuals can suffer from personal injury, the loss of a loved one or damage to property. There are also linger impacts long after disaster strikes leading many to suffer from alcohol and drug impairment, acute traumatic stress and PTSD.
“Individuals who experience multiple or long-lasting acute events—such as more than one disaster or multiple years of drought—are likely to experience more severe trauma and may be even more susceptible to PTSD and the other types of psychiatric symptoms described above,” the report states.
One of the key takeaways is on expanding an area’s mental health infrastructure. Cities and states require plans in place so that they know how to serve those needs following a disaster. And residents should know where they can find those resources. This requires training, another recommendation by report authors. Good data and connectivity to Health Information Exchanges and population health via a certified EHR is another way for Public Health and Behavioral Health providers communicating and in the know about areas with the most need.
Health in All Policies plans help to build the connections between departments to consider how new development or legislation might eventually impact the wellbeing of the communities they serve. Planning is necessary for all government, but planning together can ultimately provide healthier communities and save money fighting disease, substance abuse issues, and other public health concerns.
More information on Health in All Policies efforts
More information on the American Psychological Association’s Report.