Redefining New Hanover County’s Impact on Health

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.” Health starts in our homes, neighborhoods, schools and workplaces. It is determined, in part, by where we live and our access to resources and opportunities.

One of New Hanover County’s strategic priorities is superior public health, and we are focused on reducing health risks and diseases in our county. While quality health care is essential to our heath, research has shown that social, economic, and environmental factors influence health on a much greater level.

According to Steven A. Schroeder in the New England Journal of Medicine’s We Can Do Better – Improving the Health of the American People, behavioral patterns account for nearly 40 percent of premature deaths in the US; genetic predisposition accounts for 30 percent; social and environmental conditions account for 20 percent; and health care accounts for 10 percent.

So a person’s zip code can have a much bigger impact on their health than even their genetic code. And that means we have a great opportunity and a vital responsibility to improve our community’s health.

New Hanover County recently sat down with community leaders to begin a conversation about what the most pressing health issues are in our county and how we can work together to create effective solutions that address those problems.

Those partners are joining New Hanover County on Monday, March 27 for a health forum called The Health of Our Community: Current Statistics and Future Priorities. This event is aimed at business leaders, public officials, faith leaders, area nonprofits, healthcare providers, and other thought leaders who value health to discuss how the social determinates of health affect our community and why we should care.

New Hanover County’s Health Director Phillip Tarte will open the event with the current health profile of our county. He will present data, share what we have learned, and discuss the biggest health issues facing our community. Dr. Ronny Bell, Professor and Chair of the Department of Public Health at East Carolina University (ECU), will discuss how the social determinates of health impact health equity in our region.

A panel, moderated by Dr. Charles Hardy, Founding Dean of UNCW’s College of Health and Human Services, will discuss why the overall public’s health matters to our community. Panelists include:

  • Dr. Ronny Bell, Professor and Chair, ECU Department of Public Health
  • Mr. Chris Coudriet, County Manager, New Hanover County Government
  • Ms. Tara Duckworth, Director, New Hanover County Parks and Gardens
  • Mr. John Gizdic, President and CEO, New Hanover Regional Medical Center
  • Mr. Mike Kozlosky, Executive Director, Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
  • Dr. Tim Markley, Superintendent, New Hanover County Schools
  • Dr. Joseph Pino, Executive Director, South East Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC)
  • Mr. Phillip Tarte, Health Director, New Hanover County Government

This is a community conversation because we each have a piece of the puzzle – from government, to nonprofits, to our schools, to our health care system, and everything in between. We need to collaborate and determine where we need to focus our time, attention, and money to improve the health of our community.

The forum will be the kick-off for a county-wide collective impact initiative that will bring community partners together that share common goals. Working together, we will begin to prioritize and align resources so we aren’t duplicating efforts among agencies. We will identify gaps in services and agree on a small number of effective solutions that, when combined, have the ability to make us healthier.

A detailed planning session will take place in the fall with these partners to begin defining our next steps. Through collective impact, I believe we will be able to clearly articulate the community’s health priorities and develop strategies to address these challenges over the coming years.

A healthier community means greater self-sufficiency, more productive employees, better-focused students, and a stronger economy. This is important to all of us, so I hope you will attend The Health of Our Community event. Make this a priority and help redefine our community’s impact on health.

The Health of Our Community: Current Statistics and Future Priorities

When: Monday, March 27, 6-8 p.m.

Where: UNCW McNeill Lecture Hall 1005 (601 S. College Road)

Register for the event here

Space is limited to 200 people. If you are unable to attend, the full program will be available on NHCTV and the county’s YouTube channel after the event.

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