153: Equity Gap – Public Health Week

Joan Adam, South Dakota’s Secretary of Health, discusses the health equity gap as part of our recognition of National Public Health Week; Dr. Jose Montero, Director of the Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support at the CDC, outlines...

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Joan Adam, South Dakota’s Secretary of Health, discusses the health equity gap as part of our recognition of National Public Health Week; Dr. Jose Montero, Director of the Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support at the CDC, outlines steps taken to address vaccine equity; ASTHO publishes a blog article noting health equity is the organization’s number one priority; and Delaware provides emergency and crisis training to people who assist those living with disabilities.

APHA Webpage: National Public Health Week

ASTHO Legislative Prospectus: Health Equity

ASTHO Report: Advancing Health Equity Through Immunization

ASTHO Infographic: 10 Key Actions to Improve Immunization Uptake and Advance Health Equity – Community Engagement

ASTHO Blog Article: Equity Will Come Standard at ASTHO

ASTHO Blog Article: Embedded – Delaware Stands Up a Functional Assessment Service Team


ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Friday April 8th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


Everywhere you look, there are signs of health disparities: in health insurance, access to care, availability of the right kinds of care—the list goes on and on. As we continue our recognition of National Public Health Week, we consider the health equity gap. Here's our morning conversation with South Dakota secretary of health, Joan Adam.

The pandemic has put a lot of focus on health equity in America. Where do you think we stand in our collective effort to close the health equity gap?


Well, I believe this truly is one of the silver linings of the pandemic, and that is the awareness that in order to keep people healthy and improve the public's health, we must look at the bigger picture and the many factors related to maintaining health. People's health needs are complex and variable, and helping people navigate and obtain the right level of care at the right place is complex as well.

I truly believe the pandemic helped illuminate that doctors and nurses can't fill all roles and gaps in the healthcare system. There are many factors that must be addressed prior to seeking medical care, as well as after an encounter with a healthcare provider. We need other types of healthcare workers to make the entire system work.


Are there any approaches that have worked the best to help close the gap?


So, in South Dakota specifically, we had been working for several years on the community health worker model—really introducing the type of employee or part of the healthcare system that can help navigate the critical needs of an individual and the variable needs of individuals and meet them where they're at, help them obtain the resources and access to services that can improve their health.


Is there anything else we can do?


The other thing we're really focusing on is the implementation of the community health portal and really an effort to match the work that's done in the social services area with work that's done in the healthcare arena. And bringing those two systems together is critical to helping people achieve good health outcomes.

Although we had worked on these concepts and programs for many years, what we lacked was the funding in order to make the community health worker, as well as the community health portal, a reality in our state. Through the availability of the federal funding, now we're able to take those initiatives really to the finish line.

And so, it's not only the funding that's been made available, but also the awareness. I think sometimes you approach already very busy healthcare providers with a concept and idea like the community health worker model, and they already have plenty on their hands. And I think the pandemic made us realize that, whether we fully understand that we're involved in helping individuals navigate the entire continuum of healthcare or not, the reality is that healthcare providers were and are.

And so, by bringing multiple resources to the table, through whether it be the technology solutions like the community health portal or it be an actual employee-type like a community health worker, it's really what will help bring those two systems together through the awareness of the need of that role as well as the funding to make it a reality.


National Public Health Week continues over the weekend. We cover those topics early next week. On Monday, Dr. John Balbus with HHS is here to talk about the public health impacts of climate change.


Vaccine equity is a key concern for public health leaders who continue to urge people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dr. Jose Montero is with the CDC.


We go to the communities, we have deployed teams, we have done surveys and develop materials and approaches that help us build the trust and increase the collaboration and create tools and resources to respond to the concerns and feedback from all of the different communities affected by COVID-19, especially those who are disproportionately impacted. These activities and the messages that we develop that are all supported by the science can help increase vaccine acceptance.



Health equity is the number one priority in ASTHO's new strategic plan. A blog article explains how the staff will prioritize equity work when supporting members with technical assistance and capacity building needs. Get more details using the link in the show notes.


Finally today, Delaware has a plan to teach people how to support members of the disabled community during emergencies and disasters. Trainees already worked with those living with disabilities—now, they'll know how to support them during a crisis. Read more about Delaware's functional assessment service team in a new blog article linked in the show notes.


Before we go, we want to remind you to follow the show—that way you'll never miss a single report. Also, don't forget to recommend the daily on your social media channels.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We are back Monday morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great weekend.

Joan Adam

Secretary of Health, South Dakota Department of Health

Jose Montero MD MHCDS

Director, Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support, CDC