155: Defining Health – Public Health Week

Nathaniel Counts with the non-profit Mental HeaIth America explains the effort to redefine health to include a consideration of mental wellness, as we conclude our seven-part series of conversations with public health leaders in recognition of...


Nathaniel Counts with the non-profit Mental HeaIth America explains the effort to redefine health to include a consideration of mental wellness, as we conclude our seven-part series of conversations with public health leaders in recognition of National Public Health Week 2022; Kay Matthews, founder of the Shades of Blue Project, says public health leaders can help break down barriers to maternal mental health by funding grassroots groups working with people in need; ASTHO has compiled a report listing the steps members can take to support programs to prevent health care associated infections; and the CDC and the Alzheimer’s Association will host a webinar to discuss the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act and highlight programs funded by the 2018 law.

APHA Webpage: National Public Health Week 2022

Website: Shades of Blue Project

ASTHO Report: Eight Ways Health Department Leaders Can Support Effective HAI/AR Programs

CDC Webinar: Public Health and Dementia – The BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act

 

ASTHO logo

Transcript

ROBERT JOHNSON:

This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Tuesday April 12, 2022. I’m Robert Johnson.

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

 

Today we ask the question, “What is the meaning of health?” It was the closing topic on the last day of National Public Health Week over the weekend. Nathaniel Counts with the nonprofit Mental Health America explains the effort to redefine health to include, among other things, a consideration of mental wellness. It’s the morning conversation.

There’s an effort underway to redefine the meaning of health. Mental wellness comes into that equation. Explain this to us.

NATHANIEL COUNTS:

So, part of it is taking a more expansive view of health that includes the lived experience of how we experience our own health. And part of that is, of course, mental wellbeing—like how do we feel—and part of recognizing the role that mental health and substance use and behavioral health play as health conditions unto themselves.

The other big part of it is the way that mental wellbeing plays into other health conditions. Increasingly, we’re finding that—in addition to being an important outcome of public health—mental health and wellbeing also relate to metabolic and endocrine functioning, and immune responses, and end up contributing to all sorts of chronic diseases like cardiometabolic conditions and a host of other issues as people age.

JOHNSON:

So, how do these mental health concerns—and maybe you talked about it just then, but expand—how do they become public health challenges?

COUNTS:

So, I think in part they become public health challenges because, first, mental health is part of most other public health goals—so, mental health is critical to addressing other issues like obesity. It’s sort of part of every single issue that public health deals with.

But then also, public health approaches are needed for mental health because it is a population-level issue; whole communities experience worsening mental health as they face greater adversity and stress and discrimination, and the approaches that public health employs are absolutely critical to addressing mental health and wellbeing.

JOHNSON:

I doubt that any public health professional listening to this conversation right now would disagree with you; but they might be asking themselves, “What can I do? How can I help? What should my next step be?” Can you answer any of those questions for them right now?

COUNTS:

So, I think I’d recommend two ways of tackling it.

First is, in the same way that public health would be aware of health in all policies, I think you can have sort of like mental health in all programs. So, whenever you’re thinking about—I used the example obesity and cardiovascular conditions, but let’s say falls in older adults—all these different areas, you can think about what are some of the opportunities, like how is mental health involved and what are the opportunities to address mental health as part of these strategies to both make my current public health objective more effective but also to address the mental health concerns. Because there’s an incredible amount of intersections between the approaches used in one condition versus another.

The other thing is to think about what mental health-specific public health approaches could you take—you know, using some of the existing data sets from CDC and elsewhere to target some of those pressing mental health issues and working with community members to identify their most pressing mental health needs, and then building programs around what you identify in your community.

 

JOHNSON:

Kay Matthews has her own nonprofit, the Shades of Blue Project, that works to break cultural barriers in maternal mental health. She says those barriers include access to good medical care and social support services, adding public health leaders can help.

KAY MATTHEWS:

Fund more community-based organizations that are doing the work and are really, truly having positive outcomes and having the impact that we want to see. Change the system all the way across the board.

JOHNSON:

Learn more about the Shades of Blue Project using the link in the show notes.

 

ASTHO has compiled a report listing the steps members can take to support programs to prevent healthcare-associated infections. It offers eight actions and provides examples of solutions members have employed to keep people in healthcare and nursing home facilities safe.

You can download the report using the link in the show notes.

 

Finally today: the law was passed in 2018, but the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act continues to impact dementia public health and policy nationwide. On Tuesday, April 26, CDC and the Alzheimer’s Association will host a webinar to discuss the legislation and highlight programs funded by the law.

You can hold your seat to the online event using the link 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’ll be back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I’m Robert Johnson, you’re listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Kay Matthews

Executive Director, Shades of Blue Project

Nathaniel Counts JD

SVP, Behavioral Health Innovation, Mental Health America