Insights in Chronic Disease: Issue 2 | 2019

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A Message to Members — Socially Determined: A Call to Action

Like any other field, public health must evolve to continue to be relevant and effective in society. This issue of our special Insights magazine, published during the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors’s 30th anniversary, focuses on the evidence supporting a more engaged role for public health in addressing the “social determinants of health,” or the underlying social and economic causes of health inequities. These inequities bear a particular influence on the burden of chronic diseases, especially since, as emerging science suggests, early adverse childhood experiences may increase later-in-life risks for cancer or diabetes.

There is much to discuss on this topic and how it will affect disease prevention and control. That’s why we’re thrilled to share with you some of the leading voices helping to define the future of our work.

The 20th Surgeon General of the United States, VADM Dr. Jerome Adams, shares how servant leadership can help public health professionals bridge nontraditional partnerships to improve outcomes.

NACDD Board President Dr. Gabriel Kaplan presents the case for public health to become more “socially determined.” He suggests we change our mindset about our approach to public health. Dr. Kaplan urges us to be the voice that clearly articulates the relationship between existing social, economic, educational, and health policies and the resulting poor health outcomes that our health system produces. Gov. Mike Leavitt of Leavitt Partners, who was formerly Secretary of Health and Human Services, discusses how data is shaping population health; he proposes that the healthcare system should move from a reactive, fee-for-service structure to one that pays for value. Dr. Ross Brownson, a leader in chronic disease prevention and epidemiology, provides a look at how far chronic disease prevention has come, offering a hopeful look into the future. He advocates for evidence-based capacity building and collaboration with atypical partners, suggesting that many of the gains we can make in health and chronic disease prevention will occur in sectors not directly focused on health.

CDC’s Dr. Robin Ikeda, Deputy Director for Non-Infectious Diseases, and Dana Shelton, Acting Director of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, share some of the emerging science and innovation around chronic disease, advising how Chronic Disease Units can help promote health equity.

Finally, we’ve included summaries of some of the abstracts that our Members in Chronic Disease Units across the country presented to their peers during our 2019 Chronic Disease Academy. This exemplary and pioneering work on social justice, cross-sector collaboration, healthy community projects, and addressing health inequities is just a small sample of the capabilities and expertise NACDD is helping to develop at the state, tribal, and territorial level. You can read more about the Chronic Disease Competencies we offer in an article by our Professional Development Expert Nancy Sutherland. These competencies are designed to support your professional growth, ultimately helping improve outcomes in chronic disease prevention and control.

As our field and our practice grow and change, the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors will stay true to its Mission when we were founded in 1988: to unite state-based leadership in chronic disease prevention.

Perhaps 30 years from now, our work may be very different — the diseases we seek to prevent may change, and the tools we use to promote health may change, advanced beyond our current imagining.

But no matter what the future holds, we plan to share it with our Members, supporting them on their journeys ahead, even as the destinations change.

We hear Members when they ask, “How can we improve not just health, but our society?” And we are determined to help them answer that call to action.

John W. Robitscher, MPH
National Association of Chronic Disease Directors

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