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SJC Department of Health releases first health equity report

FILE PHOTO: Jennifer Weingart

The St. Joseph County Department of Health is releasing its first health equity report, a 200-page document spearheaded by the department’s Health Equity, Epidemiology and Data (HEED) team.

The report looks at different health outcomes in the county — from chronic and communicable diseases to violence and injuries — and examines how those outcomes are affected by social determinants like education and economic stability.

Deputy County Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said most assessments of the county’s health care place it in the top quartile for clinical systems — but in the “third or fourth quartile” for outcomes like length and quality of life.

“It really just underscores that the problem is not so much in the clinical care provided,” Fox said. “It underscores all these social and structural factors that are adversely impacting the health of St. Joseph County.”

The health equity report follows the department’s burden of disease report from 2020. HEED team representatives said the reports are meant to act as a guide for policy makers and community organizations to help identify health inequities and address their root causes.

“This was our baseline,” Mary Wachira, HEED’s public health fellow for health equity, said. “Our next step is going into the community and… beginning to think innovatively through interventions that might be needed in the community to improve those health outcomes.”

That work will be carried out through health cafes and other initiatives of the county’s community health workers.

The department of health will also hold a community discussion about the report at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 21 at the Civil Rights Heritage Center.

“Systems of power really do impact the health of any individual and any community,” County Health Officer Dr. Bob Einterz said. “And so it’s very, very important that the individual citizen is empowered to understand what’s really happening and understand how one can best respond to that.”

The health department aims to release a new health equity report every five years.

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Gemma DiCarlo came to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.