Posted By Monique Dever On December 3, 2014
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), “the practice of evidence-based public health (EBPH) is an integration of science-based interventions with community preferences for improving population health”
It makes sense to focus limited public health resources on implementing strategies that have already proven to be effective in producing positive health outcomes. These evidence-based strategies include interventions and policies that have been defined and often implemented in other counties.
The NC Institute of Medicine (NCIOM), Task Force on Implementing Evidence-Based Strategies in Public Health, worked in partnership with the Division of Public Health (DPH), and other state health agencies such as Healthy NC 2020, to develop a vision and roadmap for improving population health, focused on what could be done at the state and local levels. Healthy People 2020, a US Department of Health and Human Services initiative has established goals for improving the health of all Americans.
Based on community assessments, Local Health Departments (LHDs) need to look at available research and weigh the information on the potential evidence-based strategies (EBS), the needs of the population, and what resources are available to support the EBS and create an action plan. Each LHD must then select two state-supported EBSs for 10 of the 40 objectives identified by the action plan, and at least one expert contact for each selected EBS. Leaders in public health are taking advantage of Electronic Health Record EHR software and information technology to do community assessment and track progress against Healthy 2020 goals.
According to Laura Edwards, Director, Center for Healthy NC 2020, “We cannot measure everything that is important in public health work.” Healthy NC 2020 identified 40 priority objectives that support 13 defined focus areas to improve population health by 2020. These objectives are concise and more manageable and allow for a meaningful impact. Within each objective, Healthy NC 2020 outlines specific evidence-based strategies to help achieve each of the objectives.
Healthy NC 2020, has identified13 focus areas which are key risk factors that contribute to the leading causes of death in North Carolina. These factors are:
- Tobacco Use
- Physical Activity and Nutrition
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Unintended Pregnancy
- Maternal and Infant Health
- Substance Abuse
- Mental Health
- Infectious Disease/Foodborne Illness
- Oral Health
- Social Determinants of Health
- Environmental Health
- Chronic Disease
With the introduction of Electronic Health Record (EHR) software in local health departments, private practices and hospitals, data collection and tracking progress has become so much easier. No more burdensome manual surveys where data is always one to two years behind. Real time data can be collected in a community which can help get quarterly progress against certain key risk factors. Based on data, corrective actions can be taken quickly. Furthermore, public health leaders are integrating communication technology with their EHR to expand outreach while reducing costs. Healthy 2020 is the right public health initiative and now EHR technology is providing unexpected help to improve population health.
Let us know how you are pursuing Healthy 2020 goals in your community. Do you have any thoughts on how IT technology is helping you implement evidence-based strategies?