Getting Well: How the Arizona Health Improvement Plan will Achieve This
By Sheila Sjolander, MSW, Assistant Director - Division of Public Health, Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS)
With a vast array of health issues impacting Arizona, it becomes critical to set priorities to focus action on where it is needed the most. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has taken on this task and articulated a set of health priorities with plans to implement actions to address those priorities.
The Arizona Health Improvement Plan (AzHIP) was first established in 2016 to provide a five-year roadmap with 17 health priorities covering issues like chronic disease, mental health, injury prevention, maternal & child health, access to care, and the built environment. The process brought together a network of partners to align resources and efforts so that the plan reflects collective action taken by multiple partner organizations to achieve the goals and actions set forth. ADHS and its partners are preparing to measure their impacts and transition activities as the five-year life span of the plan closed at the end of 2020.
Currently, the development of the next five-year plan for 2021-2025 is underway. The new AzHIP will focus on a smaller number of priorities which underlie multiple health issues and disparities. Priorities were informed by data in the Arizona State Health Assessment and established with community input and guidance from the AzHIP Steering Committee.
The 2021-2025 priorities are:
· Health Equity
· Health in All Policies/Social Determinants of Health (with an initial focus on housing)
· Mental Well-being (including a focus on social connectedness, substance use, and suicide prevention)
· Pandemic Recovery
· Rural Health & Urban Underserved (including a focus on access to care)
While health equity stands as a distinct priority of new AzHIP, it is core to achieving progress in all of the priority areas and is intended to be integrated throughout the plan. The AzHIP Health Equity Core Team offers the following definition of health equity, adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Health equity is defined as every person having a fair and just opportunity to “attain their full health potential,” and is achieved when individuals who are impacted by injustices are co-creating solutions and policies. When systems are responsive to communities, health equity is achieved and health injustices are eliminated. Health injustices include differences in length of life; quality of life; rates of disease, disability, and death; severity of disease; access to treatment; and/or disadvantages due to race or other socially determined circumstances.”
The development, and impact, of the AzHIP is the result of the hard work of public health professionals, advocates and community stakeholders at the state, county and community levels. The AzHIP is a plan for the entire state and reflects the commitment to improving public health by multiple partners.