Opinion: ‘Health in all policies’ in Fulton


In 2009, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners undertook a top-to-bottom makeover of its public health policies and services in the wake of a 2008 Health Equity report by the Georgia Department of Community Health. The report listed the counties with the best health outcomes for minorities and those in which minorities faced the “greatest health challenges.” Despite having spent more than $2 billion on public health services since 1975, Fulton found itself on the latter list.

Fast forward to 2015. The latest National County Health Rankings, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, shows Fulton is now in the top 15 percent of Georgia counties with the best health outcomes. The journey has not been easy, nor without setbacks, but actions to address health disparities and improve health outcomes have undoubtedly been successful.

The terms “health disparities” and “social determinants of health” are relatively new to the layperson’s lexicon. Social determinants are the social factors — gender, race, socio-economic status, educational level and where a person lives — that often negatively impact health outcomes. Health disparities refer to differences in the quality of health care and outcomes due to the aforementioned social factors.

Common Ground, the nationally recognized initiative enacted by Fulton leaders, addressed the “access to care” aspect of social determinants. It established a network of modern, family-friendly health centers to provide integrated care.

This “integrated care service delivery” approach has all public services — health (including primary care, dental and behavioral), job and career assistance, housing assistance, library, computer labs and the arts — in one location to address constituents’ needs. When clients come for one service, our clinicians assess and address other critical needs they might have.

When I joined the Fulton County Board in 2011, Common Ground had begun to bring about the changes we hoped it would.

One of the early highlights for me was presiding at the opening of the beautiful new Oak Hill Child, Adolescent and Family Center in southwest Atlanta. Its 22-acre campus is a treasure trove of services for young people from infancy to age 21, embracing the integrated care concept. There are, of course, medical services, but also gardening, nutrition and cooking classes, games and exercises, with the goal of tackling a major national and Georgia problem: childhood obesity.

By now, my constituents know I solidly support “health in all policies” when envisioning, planning and implementing programs throughout the county. Currently, I chair the Healthy Counties Initiative Advisory Board for the National Association of Counties.

Last October, I hosted an all-day Building Healthy Communities summit that brought together national, regional and local leaders to brainstorm. I wanted to hear how they would improve public health and ascertain what resources they could bring to the table. Since then, I have attended a number of neighborhood health screenings, neighborhood planning unit meetings, and seminars and summits. I want to make sure the people of Fulton County know about and understand the services available to them and how these programs and services help us all to live healthy, productive lives.

Joan Garner is the District 4 Fulton County Commissioner.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Readers Write: Nov. 20

Cost overruns should be born by partners To say Georgia Power and its partners are not responsible for monstrous Plant Vogtle cost overruns is, at best, delusional “Vogtle delays and cost overruns not our fault …,” News, Nov. 10. When private companies or individuals make investments that happen to go sour, they pay a price except...
Opinion: Alabama rolls toward a high-stakes skirmish

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — But for the bomb, the four would be in their 60s, probably grandmothers. Three were 14 and one was 11 in 1963 when the blast killed them in the 16th Street Baptist Church, which is four blocks from the law office of Doug Jones, who then was 9. He was born in May 1954, 13 days before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board...
Opinion: You’re not worried enough about judicial appointments

You are not worried enough. Granted, that may seem a nonsensical claim. Assuming you don’t belong to the tinfoil hat brigades who consider Donald Trump the greatest thing to hit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since Abraham Lincoln left for the theater, you’ve spent the last year worrying as much as you know how. There has certainly been no shortage...
Opinion: “The works I’ve done ….”

We lost the great Sharon Jones a year ago tomorrow, after a long and heroic battle against cancer. Before her departure, however, the Georgia-born Jones left us with this, a cut off her new, posthumously released album “Soul of a Woman.” In an interview shortly before her death, she referenced her fondness for a gospel classic...
Opinion: Hospice care helps make every day count

There are two things certain in life, death and taxes. We talk a lot about taxes, but rarely talk about death — or the dying process. Most people, especially people of faith, don’t fear death. They fear the dying process. They fear being in pain and having other symptoms, such as nausea or shortness of breath. They fear dying alone and...
More Stories