By Dr. Chris Urbina
Never have I been satisfied with average — at least when it comes to report cards.
Unfortunately, the results of the Colorado Health Foundation’s 2011 Colorado Health Report Card, to be released this week, show Colorado is generally getting “above average to below average” grades when compared to other states in 38 health indicators.
But while the report card indicates how Colorado is doing in certain national rankings, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is working with the state’s 54 local public health agencies and other partners to improve the health and environment of Coloradans.
In January, the state launched its Winnable Battles campaign to bring attention to – and make improvements to – 10 identified public health battles. These 10 Winnable Battles were selected because they provide Colorado’s greatest opportunities for ensuring the health of our citizens and visitors, and the improvement and protection of our environment.
Many of Colorado’s Winnable Battles align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Winnable Battles or are consistent with the Seven Priorities for EPA’s Future, while others reflect Colorado’s own unique priorities. These broad topic areas can be customized by counties and cities based on local priorities and authorities, or by agencies and other organizations whose missions overlap. All partners and stakeholders are needed and welcomed in helping address these Winnable Battles, because with collective efforts, we can make a difference!
Several of the state’s Winnable Battles are reflected in the report card, such as oral health, obesity, tobacco cessation and infectious disease prevention. To the extent the Report Card helps bring private and public partners together to improve the health of Coloradans, I welcome the spotlight on health.
This year’s report card highlights prevention initiatives that show positive returns on investment. The initiatives profiled – including the department’s effective nurse home visitor program, and the importance of vaccinations, oral health and tobacco cessation – already provide high-quality, health-related services and show how these programs impact Coloradans in ways that achieve returns on investments.
Just as I’m not satisfied with average, I’m also not satisfied with an A for effort. Because it is through the collective efforts of the state and its public health partners where real progress will be made.
The Cavity Free at Three initiative by the Colorado Partnership for Children’s Oral Health supported by the Caring for Colorado foundation is a perfect example of a private-public effort to increase access of cavity detection services and oral health screenings for young children. Nationally, the number of children between ages 2 and 5 with cavities has increased 15 percent during the past decade. One of the initiatives is working with partners to align oral health projects across the state to improve oral health literacy and link resources to underserved populations. Already the Cavity Free at Three program has provided 15,000 children and families with dental services and distributed 14,000 oral health kits, among other successes.
This is just one example of working together toward better health.
For more information about Colorado’s 10 Winnable Battles for public health and the environment, please visit the department’s website. The identified battle areas are: Clean Air, Clean Water, Infectious Disease Prevention, Injury Prevention, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Obesity, Oral Health, Safe Food, Tobacco and Unintended Pregnancy.
Dr. Chris Urbina is the executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.