402: Equity Change Agents, Equity Success In Michigan

Dr. Somava Saha, Founder and CEO of WE in the World, shares a framework to help public health officials create health equity; Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Chief Medical Executive for the State of Michigan, explains how Michigan has reduced health...

Dr. Somava Saha, Founder and CEO of WE in the World, shares a framework to help public health officials create health equity; Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Chief Medical Executive for the State of Michigan, explains how Michigan has reduced health disparities; an ASTHO blog article discusses the role of public health disease intervention specialists in disease investigation; and ASTHO has a job website listing open positions.

Pathways to Population Health Equity- Home Page

Pathways to Population Health Equity  Framework

Racial health disparities in Michigan declined according to COVID task force report

A Look at a Critical Player in Public Health, Disease Intervention Specialists

Careers at ASTHO


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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Wednesday, April 19, 2023. I'm Robert Johnson.

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



What Pathways to Population Health Equity does is it makes health equity actionable for public health professionals.


People in public health can become change agents with the help of the Pathways to Population Health Equity framework. Dr. Somava Saha worked with ASTHO and the CDC to develop the framework. She's the founder and CEO of Well-being and Equity (WE) in the World.


The Pathways to Population Health Equity framework helps us know that—while some of what we need to do is to help take care of people today in terms of their mental and physical health—we know as public health professionals that prevention is the key. And that means attending to all of the things that lead people to poor health, in terms of their mental and physical well being, but also their social well being.


One of the tools is a roadmap to help people know where they are now and where they need to go.


Tool number two is, of course, the framework itself. That has everything from an understanding of P2PHI, but also a review of other health equity primers, a crosswalk with other tools like PHAB and others that's built in. And then, the tool number three is a compass, which is where you get to assess where you are. And I always say tool number four is really the website, which makes it so easy.


The framework is catching on.


So entire states like New Mexico organize the work of their health equity councils and teams based on the framework. States like Illinois and Rhode Island have large scale demonstration projects all across the state of health departments and local communities using the framework to advance health equity. And then groups like NOSOR—the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health are using the framework as a way of organizing rural areas for a deeper health equity journey.


You can learn more by visiting the framework website—we've got the link in the show notes.


Health disparities in Michigan have gotten better since the early days of the pandemic. Michigan state chief medical executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian says a task force is one of the reasons why.


They met for almost three years and put out not only very discreet recommendations but did a lot of the work and made sure that things were followed through on. And as a result, we really saw some impacts on our racial and ethnic disparities as it comes to COVID-19 outcomes.


With the committee's help, the state—according to Bagdasarian—removed obstacles that were preventing better population health outcomes.


So if transportation is a barrier in terms of getting to a site that administers vaccines, if childcare is a barrier, if transportation is a barrier, whatever those barriers are, how can we meet communities where they are to minimize some of those barriers.


Michigan also invested in neighborhood testing sites.


They started out as places where testing could be offered. And then, as more tools became offered during the COVID-19 pandemic, these places offered more tools. So they started out with testing, then they started offering vaccines as vaccines became available, then they became test-to-treat sites where folks could actually get a test and get their prescription for Paxlovid or get the actual Paxlovid right there and then.


Bagdasarian wants public health to be prepared for the next pandemic. That means trying to resolve the political question.


The politicization of COVID, it really hindered some of our efforts, it really led to a lot of distrust between the public and public health. And so, how do we—before the next crisis—rebuild that connection with the public, rebuild that public trust, and make sure that, by laying a stronger foundation, that we're ready for whatever comes next.



Also today, we consider the impact of public health professionals who investigate disease outbreaks. O'Keyla Cooper tells us more about disease intervention specialists.


Public health disease intervention specialists (DIS) have been essential to public health for decades, providing cultural humility, respect, and compassion in response to communicable disease outbreaks. In 2021, health departments received increased funding for DIS services, strengthening the existing workforce and providing opportunities to expand capacity. Read more about the evolution of DIS using the link in the show notes.



Finally this morning, ASTHO is hiring. You can find out about open positions when you visit the ASTHO careers webpage. There's a link in the show notes.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We're 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.

Somava Saha MD MS

Founder and Executive Lead, Well-being and Equity (WE) in the World

Natasha Bagdasarian MD MPH

Chief Medical Executive, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services