#MACoCon Panel: Including Health Decisions in All Policy Decisions

From Left to Right: Robert Stephens, Bridget Kerner, & Senator Addie Eckardt

Health experts discussed how to incorporate public health impacts into a county’s decision making process for all kinds of policies – not just those traditionally associated with health – on December 7 at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference. The panel was called “Health in All Policies” and was moderated by Maryland Senator Addie Eckardt. In her opening remarks, Senator Eckardt stressed that almost any decision a county makes can affect the public health.

National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Senior Program Analyst Bridget Kerner discussed various Health in All Policies (HiAP) initiatives and the strategies needed successfully implement HiAP at a county level. Kerner noted that HiAP implements health determinations in all policy decisions and is designed to ensure that all policies have either a neutral or positive effect on public health. HiAP can cover policies relating to the built environment, economic development, comprehensive planning, and public safety. Kerner noted that HiAP began in 1999 in the European Union and is now an emerging health trend in the United States. According to Kerner, NACCHO will unveil a HiAP technical assistance program starting January 1, 2018.

Garrett County Health Officer Robert Stephens discussed the County’s recent receipt of a 2017 Culture of Health Prize. Prize Communities throughout the nation focus on better health outcomes through HiAP. Prize communities excel in six criteria: (1) defining health in broadest possible terms; (2) committing to sustainable systems changes and policy-oriented long-term solutions; (3) cultivating a shared and deeply held belief in the importance of equal opportunity for health; (4) harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners, and community members; (5) securing and making the most of available resources; and (6) measuring and sharing progress and results. Stephens noted Garrett County is not seeing growth so its health focus is more on preventative health practices, public education, and aging in place.