By Paige Bussanich, MS
Senior Program Manager, CYSHCN
Candice Green, MPH
Office of Health Data and Research
Mississippi State Department of Health
Kelly Kimple, MD, MPH, FAAP
Division of Public Health, Women's and Children's Health Section
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Public Health Region IV — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee — is a diverse region with a population of over 60 million people. As with state public health leaders across the country, those in Region IV make it a priority to ensure that individuals in their communities achieve their full health potential. Read below for two distinct examples of how Title V leaders in Mississippi and North Carolina are working to address the health disparities in their states by engaging with partners within and outside of public health.
The Mississippi Sisters United initiative addresses the high infant mortality rate in the African-American community. Modeled after a similar initiative by the Arkansas Department of Health, Mississippi Sisters United is a partnership between the Mississippi State Department of Health and the Pan-Hellenic graduate sorority chapters of Mississippi. The initiative focuses on reducing infant mortality by addressing safe sleep environments; breastfeeding; folic acid intake; and healthy weight before, during, and after pregnancy, by using an educational video. Participating graduate sorority chapters receive a stipend of up to $1,000 to conduct two outreach events, including one with an educational video viewing in their communities. Mississippi Sisters United is currently funded by AMAG Pharmaceuticals. Sisters United was previously funded by March of Dimes, and it aligns with March of Dimes' goal of "implementing community programs that aim to promote equity in birth outcomes."
Sisters United is active not only in Mississippi. The initiative has reached public health districts IV[M1] [KT2] , V, VII, VIII, and IX. Below are some numbers that show the broad impact of Sisters United, which in three years has reached 1,305 people.
- There have been 12 train-the-trainer sessions conducted for graduate sorority chapters in public health districts IV, V, VII, VIII, and IX that focused on folic acid intake; safe sleep; breastfeeding; and healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy. After the train-the-trainer sessions were conducted, the graduate sorority members trained 121 of their sorority members.
- Six community events were held during year one of Sisters United, reaching approximately 199 community members.
- Sixteen community events were held during year two, reaching approximately 560 community members.
- Eight community events held during year three, reaching approximately 425 community members.
North Carolina is at its best when every person – regardless of race, ethnicity, income, or geography – has the opportunity to achieve and maintain his or her best health. Across measures of community health there are persistent gaps by race, ethnicity, income, and other factors. These differences are often preventable, and they can be perpetuated by inequitable policies, programs, and practices that impact the delivery of services and worsen disparities in the social and economic conditions where people live, learn, work, and age.
A collaboration between N.C. Child, the N.C. Division of Public Health Women's Health Branch, and the N.C. Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, known as '#impactEQUITYNC,' is working to change this.
Based on a tool originally developed in Washington state, #impactEQUITYNC has developed and pilot tested the N.C. Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA) tool to evaluate the impact of public policies, programs and administrative practices on health disparities in North Carolina. The HEIA uses data and community involvement to address health disparities and facilitate systems[M3] change and has been incorporated into the N.C. Perinatal Health Strategic Plan.
Information about the progress of #impactEQUITYNC can be found at http://www.ncchild.org/promoting-health-equity/.