For all the challenges that 2020 brought, it demonstrated how absolutely critical public health is in our communities and in our nation as a whole.
Chronic Disease Units are uniquely expert in their understanding of the chronic disease burden in their communities, and many of them were called upon to make important contributions to the COVID-19 response.
As Chronic Disease Units were navigating this new era with strained resources, lack of staff, and constantly changing knowledge and information about the pandemic, NACDD responded to its Members’ call for help. The Association implemented new programs to support and reinforce prevention and health promotion messaging for populations most impacted by COVID-19 (people with heart disease, diabetes, and asthma, among other conditions).
NACDD created a COVID-19 Resource Center, continually updated with comprehensive resources addressing the pandemic, with special emphasis on populations experiencing the greatest need. In addition, NACDD released a fact sheet on COVID-19 and chronic disease for the general public (also en español) and a fact sheet for policymakers on the importance of funding state and territorial chronic disease programs to help address the current COVID-19 crisis. NACDD’s Public Health Leadership and Practice facilitated peer-to-peer learning and collective problem-solving through dialogue between Chronic Disease Directors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While COVID-19 ushered in a new era of consideration to infectious disease control, the pandemic also reminded us that we must do more to support State and Territorial Health Departments in their efforts to prevent and control chronic diseases so that all Americans have the opportunity to live longer and healthier lives. In addition to several programs that NACDD leads to help address COVID-19’s impact on chronic disease populations, NACDD also expanded its staff to support projects that must continue, such as WISEWOMAN, the National Hypertension Control Roundtable, and surveillance and informatics epidemiology.
We launched the Coordinating Center for Public Health Practice, which works closely with State and Territorial Health Departments to create healthy communities, equitable opportunities for health, and to help facilitate a modernized health system. We also launched the Center for Community and Environmental Health, which focuses on promoting community and environmental health strategies across the Association to strengthen efforts aimed at promoting physical activity, healthy nutrition, social connectedness, and other healthy behaviors and lifestyles.
In January 2020, we hosted our fourth annual Public Health Success Showcase, “Elevating Public Health to Social Health – Establishing Multisectoral Partnerships to Impact the Root Causes of Chronic Disease.” The event included a poster session featuring more than 60 projects from NACDD’s program portfolio and a livestreamed Fireside Chat with Dr. Karen Hacker, Gov. Mike Leavitt, NACDD Board President Monica Morales, and moderator Susan Winckler.
Read more about our program work in FY 2020 starting on page 20.
As the pandemic highlighted the racial disparities in healthcare, our nation also experienced social unrest due to racial violence and harassment of Black Americans and other people of color. Systemic racism, socioeconomic deprivation, race-neutral legislation, and the intentional withholding of political power from the Black community and other communities of color are factors that deeply intertwine with the health and well-being of these groups.
In response, we released a statement calling upon public health organizations, governments, and funders to recognize racism as a public health crisis. By making these and other declarations against racial violence and the health inequities of the COVID-19 pandemic, NACDD has drawn national attention to the institutional and internalized white privilege and racism that continue to hinder our field’s ability to achieve much-needed progress in building healthier societies.
NACDD has long been invested in promoting racial and health equity, primarily through our Health Equity Council. For more than 15 years, the Health Equity Council has countered the root causes of unintentional bias and institutional racism as it exists in our State Health Departments.
In June 2020, NACDD offered nine mini-grants of $25,000 to states that have participated in a pilot project to address systemic racism in their State Health Departments. Additionally, several areas of NACDD program work have covered racial justice and public health, including: GEAR Groups (small group learning opportunities), the Health Equity Council’s Race Toward Health podcast series, Member webinars, and a Thought Leader Roundtable series.
The Association also initiated the Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Alliance (REDI Alliance), comprised of NACDD staff and consultants working together to bring about systematic change and build capacity to address racism within and outside of the Association.
There is much work to be done, and we are committed to becoming a model anti-racist public health organization to promote social justice and increase health equity, and to helping other public health organizations do the same.
Read more about our focus on racism on pages 13 and 21.
Our world is looking to public health for leadership during this time — and as a result, we are more attentive than ever to our work to build and cultivate strong and innovative leaders who are resilient and resolved in this new public health era.
We’re proud to be an organization that has supported its Members for more than 30 years, and we’re thankful that we can continue to build upon our capacities to support a Membership of chronic disease professionals that needs us now more than ever.
John W. Robitscher, MPH
National Association of Chronic Disease Directors
NACDD Board President FY 2020