A look at some exciting public health happenings in the last week or so:
1) The CDC’s Healthy Communities Program
The CDC’s Healthy Communities Program recently announced the communities that have won grants to implement programs to foster healthier lifestyles. The goal of CDC’s program is to determine which policies and activities are most effective at preventing smoking, overeating, and other unhealthy behaviors, so that they can be replicated across communities. This Wall Street Journal article about Nashville, one of the grant recipients, emphasizes the focus on systems level changes – especially policy changes – as opposed to individual events or activities. The Nashville program has worked with the public school system on revising its food policy to promote fruits and vegetable and limit access to junk foods. It has also developed a “healthy workplace prescription” to advise employers and even assessed workplaces of seven major Nashville employers and is working on recommendations for each. I think this is an incredibly exciting example of how national organizations can stimulate change at the community level – where change really happens. It’s also a great example of a government program that doesn’t fall into the trap of just providing services (as discussed in my last post), instead maintaining an explicit focus on community-level capacity building. As the CDC site says:
“CDC’s Healthy Communities Program helps funded communities prevent chronic diseases by building community capacity—commitment, resources, and skills—to develop and implement policy, systems, and environmental change strategies that will
- Reduce health risk factors, especially tobacco use and exposure, insufficient physical activity, and poor nutrition.
- Support attaining health equity.”
This is *just* the kind of support we need from national/federal organizations!
2) National Public Health Week
Happy National Public Health Week! NPHW is April 4-10, 2011, and this year’s focus is on safety, with a tagline “Safety is NO Accident: Live Injury-Free”. Having worked in injury and violence prevention this past summer, this is of course exciting to me – unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among those aged 1-44, and in the top 5 across all ages, and yet get little attention, particularly in terms of systems-level prevention.
As part of NPHW, the American Public Health Association has a road tour going on to bring injury and violence prevention information to communities and online, they are using the twitter hashtag #NPHW to aggregate information and even hosted a twitter chat earlier this week.
3) NYC BigApps2.0
New York City’s government agencies appealed to tech entrepreneurs to take advantage of more than 350 public data sets on topics ranging from crime reports to traffic stats to health. Developers were asked to invent Web and mobile applications that use the data in interesting ways. A great crowdsourcing approach, and another example of city governments tapping into the potential of technology, just like Mayor Menino’s Office of New Urban Mechanics here in Boston, which I’ve mentioned before.
The results of NYC’s experiment are pretty exciting, and have definite public health implications. For instance, Sportaneous is a location-based technology that lets you join in on sports games around you. DontEat.at sends you a text when you check in to a restaurant that has a risk of being closed for health code violations. And this year’s NYC BigApps2.0 grand prize winner, Roadify, sends alerts about subway, bus, and driving conditions. Like I’ve mentioned many times, there is such potential in social media for crowdsourcing and connecting people in a way that has real public health impact – it’s exciting to see cities, organizations, and others tap into this.