As the U.S. health care system continues to move toward population health, new resources are becoming more widely available for local initiatives. As an example, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program recently released specific reports for each state that identify areas in need of population health improvement.
These State Health Gaps reports look more closely at the extent of certain health gaps among counties, what factors influence the health of local residents, and what can be done at the state and local levels to address these issues. Furthermore, each report highlights specific “meaningful gaps” that have the greatest influence on health and are of high priority to state leaders and policymakers.
Also, an academic affiliate of America’s Essential Hospitals member VCU Health System, the VCU Center for Society and Health, has partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop a series of life expectancy maps for specific neighborhoods. Life expectancy is a strong indicator of health gaps related to social determinants, and the visualization offered by the maps brings a new dynamic to understanding such disparities across local communities.
The State Health Gaps reports, as well as life expectancy maps, can greatly assist essential hospitals and health systems in better understanding their local health landscape and identifying opportunities for population health initiatives. Furthermore, they provide data and graphics that essential providers can use to engage stakeholders and form larger partnerships to address specific gaps. Overall, they serve as invaluable resources for population health and efforts to build a culture of health.
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