State leaders can take steps to comprehensively fund the social, economic, and environmental factors that impact health and create equitable systems.
A healthy population is vital to achieving economic prosperity. Good health is the cornerstone of North Carolina’s success; healthy populations have higher capacities for learning, greater work productivity, and stronger communities. Adequate public investments play an important role in promoting and sustaining health and well-being. To date, “health spending” is often narrowly considered spending on health coverage or access alone. However, the health of North Carolinians actually begins outside of medical settings, where we live, learn, work, and play. Health transcends structural boundaries and intersects with nearly every aspect of our lives.
Making sure that every North Carolinian has a chance at prosperity and success means creating a culture of health that allows all individuals and families to thrive. State leaders can take steps to comprehensively fund the social, economic, and environmental factors that impact health and create equitable systems that ensure all North Carolinians can achieve their highest level of health and well-being. One specific public investment that can support these broader goals of improving the health of all communities is a state commitment to public health agencies. These agencies work at the state and local level to ensure that a wide range of protections, information, and services are available to every North Carolinian. It is through these comprehensive services that public health agencies across the state are gaining ground in advancing equitable outcomes in health. Such efforts hold promise, if adequately funded, to address the longtime barriers to success that are disproportionately felt by communities of color and by communities with residents who have low incomes.
Despite the promise that public health shows in improving health broadly and advancing health equity, state funding in this area has decreased. This report gives a breakdown of how state investments in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services have changed since 2008. It then takes a deeper look at how the state has failed to adequately invest in public health and continues to limit the ability of our local health departments to keep communities healthy. The report concludes by identifying the need to focus on equitable health outcomes to create a culture of health where every North Carolinian can reach their full potential.