The magazine of the UW School of Public Health

Download full issue PDF. Spring/Summer 2017
Volume 34, Number 1

Inside this issue


Regional Roundup

A snapshot of population health improvement activities that impact public health practice in each of the six states of our region.

State-Tribal Partnership For a Statewide Health Improvement Plan

Healthy Alaskans 2020, Alaska’s State Health Improvement Plan, was developed to reduce inequities and improve the health and well-being of all Alaskans. The framework, which is based on the latest scientific evidence and input of Alaskans from communities across the state, identifies Alaska’s top 25 health priorities and sets target improvement goals for each priority to be reached by 2020.

Led by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, this unique State-Tribal partnership brings together two primary providers of statewide public health with shared and overlapping service jurisdictions. Healthy Alaskans 2020 supports population health initiatives throughout the state by maximizing resources, aligning efforts, improving access to services, and facilitating cross-sector collaboration.

Health and Financial Impacts of Climate Change

Students in the Master of Public Health program at Idaho State University are working with the Southeastern Idaho Public Health District on the potential health and financial impacts of climate change on the region and recommended mitigation efforts. Using public data, recent graduate Tai Crawford developed a report on the impacts of increasing temperatures on vector-borne diseases and wildland fire smoke.

As temperatures increase, sagebrush, the primary habitat of ticks, will decrease resulting in a reduction in the incidence of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In contrast, hotter, drier conditions have led to more wildland fires. Since smoke can trigger asthma, it is expected that emergency room admissions and associated health care costs will rise. Crawford’s report has led to an interdisciplinary, multi-state effort to explore the impact of climate change for the northwest region.

Using Telemedicine to Increase Health Care Access

In Southwest Montana, time and costs associated with traveling long distances and through seasonally treacherous conditions can increase barriers to health care. To increase access throughout its service area, Bozeman Health is developing a telehealth program that connects patients to specialty services from their home or local health care facility. Bozeman Health uses a platform that is web-based, HIPPA compliant, and functional in low-bandwidth environments found in rural areas throughout the region.

The program’s initial efforts focus on specialty services that complement the outreach of physicians. Diabetes, wound care, and cardiology services are currently available for telemedicine appointments. Bozeman Health is also working with regional partners to offer a connection between clinics for visits that require clinical assistance on the patient’s end, and to ensure coordination between specialty care and the primary care provider where the patient lives.

Raising Wages, Improving Health

Income is an important determinant of health. People who earn more money tend to live longer, healthier lives. Hundreds of thousands of Oregonians struggle to make ends meet with low-wage jobs, and it takes a toll on their health. Oregon's new statewide minimum wage law will boost incomes for over 600,000 jobs, impacting approximately one-third of the jobs in Oregon. The wage increase will make workers and their families more financially secure, as well as reduce income inequality and the gender wage gap since most low-wage workers are women.

“With a sizable wage increase affecting so many people, I think it's reasonable to conclude this measure will add more than a million years to the lives of Oregonians,” said Daniel Morris, Research Director for Our Oregon.

Increasing Access to Healthy, Safe, and Affordable Food

The Roger Saux Health Center in the Quinault Indian Nation is working to decrease chronic disease through strategies that connect the entire community with increased access to healthy, safe, and affordable food. To fill a gap in healthy fresh food options, they integrated policy, systems, and built environment changes to improve the quality of life across Quinault communities. The health center created wellness community gardens in two tribal communities, and integrated garden vouchers in their clinic to connect fresh foods with those at highest risk for chronic disease.

Community volunteers assist with the gardens and the high demand for fresh food, which turned out to be more than what their gardens could support. To provide additional produce, they collaborated with a local community supported agriculture farm. They also developed procedures for safe handling and storage to improve the shelf life and consumption safety of produce from the tribal market.

Global to Local’s Connection Desk

South King County, Washington is home to more than 70 distinct linguistic groups, including newly arrived immigrants, refugees seeking asylum, second-generation immigrants, and longtime residents. Many experience communication and language translation barriers, and issues with cultural competency, when it comes to accessing services such as housing, transportation, employment, and health care. Global to Local’s referral service program called the Connection Desk helps to bridge social and health services, and is located in the lobby of a health clinic and multi-service space. Referrals can be made in person or by phone, making clinical visits more efficient as physicians can spend their visits on direct health issues. And the majority of social services based 13 miles away in Seattle are made more accessible.

Staffed by university student volunteers, who speak a variety of languages, the Connection Desk has provided more than 8,000 resource referrals.

Improving HPV Series Initiation Rates

The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) employs ongoing quality improvement and performance management strategies at the agency and division levels to make timely, data-informed decisions related to program performance.

The WDH Public Health Division’s Immunization Unit identified the state’s human papillomavirus (HPV) series initiation rate as an area needing improvement. By focusing on communication, outreach, and education, Wyoming increased the HPV series initiation rate among 13-17 year olds by 21 percent between 2013 and 2016. Wyoming’s rates were publicly presented, providers were educated on strategies to improve rates, and Assessment Feedback Incentive and Exchange visits had a stronger focus on HPV. The Immunization Unit will continue to improve immunization rates in Wyoming by using successfully proven data and strategies.