February 23, 2024

Clark County Public Health strives to address racism, health inequalities

It’s been three years since the Clark County Board of Health unanimously approved a resolution aimed at eliminating system racism and health inequalities.

Since then, Public Health has been steadily working behind the scenes to identify and address the issues. During Wednesday’s board of health meeting, Public Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick discussed the work done so far and what remains.

In October 2022, the department identified five steps to address racism as a public health crisis. The first step was to acknowledge that racism is a public health crisis affecting the county.

“A key component of this work is our community health assessment and improvement planning process,” Melnick told the Clark County Council, which he said is currently underway. The county council also serves as the board of health.

Allocate resources

The second step requires adequate financial and human resources be allocated to Public Health. In December, the county hired a new deputy director to help prioritize and facilitate departmentwide racial equity efforts.

“We’re also pivoting to department-level equity work, and we intend to bring forward a (request for proposal) for a racial equity contractor/consultant to support our work in this area,” Melnick said.

Additionally, he said Public Health is piloting a contract process for community engagement activities. A project for work along Fourth Plain Boulevard and the community health assessment successfully used the new contract process and at least one other department is interested in replicating it.

The third step is to create a framework or strategic action plan that will serve as a road map for county programs. The plan will also provide accountability and calls for regular reporting back to the public.

“Step 2 was the internal work, and this is the external work,” Melnick told the council.

This step includes hiring a racial equity director. Melnick said next month Public Health will ask for approval to use state funding for that position “to help shepherd and coordinate equity work in the department.”

As part of this step, the county joined Government Alliance on Race and Equity, a national network of government agencies working to advance racial equity. The alliance provides resources and tools to local government agencies and hosts intergovernmental forums and training sessions.

There are other tasks identified as part of the third step.

“We’re working on developing a contract for a public-facing, anti-racism webpage,” Melnick said.

Race, wealth, health

Step 4 includes the design, implementation and support of programs focused on issues that affect health outcomes. Examples include the Nurse-Family Partnership, the Women, Infants, and Children program and others.

“We presented the Raising Clark County project at the May 24 board of health meeting. The findings from that project as well as the findings from the community health assessment … will result in recommendations that we’ll bring forward” to improve health outcomes for county residents, he said.

As part of this step, the county will work to identify connections between race, wealth and health and create policies to address their impacts.

“We’re also supporting community planning in applying a health equity lens to the comprehensive plan update,” he said.

Step 5 includes monitoring and assessing impacts of county programs transparently and regularly. One example would be ongoing reporting of population health issues by race and ethnicity which would be published on the county website.

Melnick said Public Health plans to ask the county council to approve spending for anti-racism policy development.

“We look forward to continuing to share the progress we’re making on this work and how we’re using additional state foundational public health services funding,” Melnick said.

On the web

To watch the full meeting, go to https://www.cvtv.org/vid_link/35773?startStreamAt=0&stopStreamAt=4127.

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