‘Health in All Policies’ comes to Michigan

By Dennis Archambault

It’s evident to those working in the population health field that health, or well-being, is impacted by everything. Health impact assessments are applied to specific circumstances, often after an initiative is conceived and even implemented. The “Healthy Community Framework” was developed by the California Health in All Policies Task Force in 2011, based on discussion with community, government, and public health leaders responding to the question, ‘What is a healthy community.”

On June 26, following  a  1 ½ day Power to Thrive gathering in Lansing, Ingham County launched a statewide effort to enact “Health in all policies” resolutions in every Michigan county. The Health Authority is supportive of this process.

According to the American Public Health Association, “The environments in which people live, work, learn, and play have a tremendous impact on their health. Responsibility for the social determinants of health falls to many non-traditional health partners, such as housing, transportation, education, air quality, parks, criminal justice, energy, and employment agencies. Public health agencies and organizations will need to work with those who are best positioned to create policies and practices that promote healthy communities and environments and secure the many co-benefits that can be attained through healthy public policy.” To download Health in All Policies: A Guide for State and Local Governments,” visit www.apha.org/hiap.

Features of the Ingham County resolution include:

  • 42% of Mid-Michigan residents die prematurely (before age 75);
  • In 2013 Americans had an average life expectancy of 78.1 years (below the international average of 80.1) despite the U.S. leading the world in medical research and medical care spending;
  • The U.S. health care system is changing to ensure everyone can afford to see a doctor when they’re sick, and to build preventative care like screening for cancer and heart disease into every health care plan;
  • Americans are expanding their thinking of “health” to encompass not only personal choices and medical care, but also the conditions of our homes, schools, workplaces, playgrounds and parks; the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink; and our ability to get a good job and healthy food and housing, and to manage the stress surrounding us;
  • Health equity is a fair, just distribution of the social resources and social opportunities needed to achieve well-being;
  • Health in All Polices encourage and support the creation of healthier communities by modifying and aligning existing health- and “non-health”- centered operations of an organization toward a vision for health;
  • Health in All Policies provide a framework for organizational decision-making in ways that promote health and prevent harm;
  • Health in All Policies create conditions that allow and encourage people to make the best individual choices for their health and well-being;
  • The Land Use and Health Resource Team (LUHRT) was formed in 2003, and later became a coalition of the Power of We Consortium, comprised of persons from Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, the Ingham and Clinton County Public Health Departments, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, MSU researchers, planning agencies, environmental organizations, pedestrian/bicycle advocates, and developers, for the purpose improving understanding of and integrating health and local land use planning;
  • In 2004 Meridian Township Planners began using a Health Impact Assessment Checklist to determine ways to promote health and prevent harm in the course of siting and permitting buildings, by offering suggestions and recommendations to developers, and LUHRT partners have in 2014 made the checklist a publicly available, interactive, online Health Impact Assessment Tool;
  • Health in All Policies can include or lead to commitments to the use of Health Impact Assessments in one-time decision-making (i.e. a new building/construction, rezoning, variance, incentive); creation of inter-branch or inter-departmental health and equity teams; Health Equity and Social Justice workshops for employees and elected and appointed decision-makers; improvement of community engagement practices; internal translation orders for publications; procurement reform for transparency and ease of use; equity mapping projects; and other alignments toward healthy physical and social environments;
  • Health and “non-health” partners in Mid-Michigan formed in 2014 a Health in All Policy Workgroup to provide technical assistance on Health in All Policies, as part of the Mid-Michigan Health In All Project;
  • The 2011 National Prevention Strategy was developed to guide our nation in the most effective and achievable means for improving health and well-being by prioritizing prevention and integrating recommendations and actions across multiple settings to improve health and save lives;
  • Elected and appointed local government decision-makers in Mid-Michigan can lead the creation of Health in All Policies in local governments in Michigan and in the Midwest overall.

Dennis Archambault is director of Public Affairs for the Detroit Wayne County Health Authority and represents the Health Authority in the Power to Thrive process. For more information on the Ingham County resolution contact Doak Bloss at dbloss@ingham.org.