The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released its 2022 State Health Improvement Plan (NC SHIP) in late August, which explains strategies to improve key indicators of health identified by the Healthy North Carolina 2030 report.
The health improvement plan is meant as a "companion document" to Healthy North Carolina 2030, which utilizes a population health model in order to address "drivers" that impact health outcomes.
These drivers include social and economic factors, physical environment, health behaviors and clinical care factors. In the Healthy North Carolina 2030 report, specific health indicators are described within each major factor.
NC SHIP also advances the NCDHHS 2021-2023 Strategic Plan and its objective to promote health equity.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, state health director and chief medical officer for NCDHHS, about 80 percent of factors that impact health are outside the realm of medical care. She said that determinants such as food security, poverty and housing instability are central drivers of health.
She said these factors outside of medical care must be addressed by many stakeholders.
“It’s not just health care,” Tilson said. “It’s law enforcement, it’s business. The State Health Improvement Plan is really a framework that we can have many stakeholders, all involved, all collaborating on this common set of objectives.”
One of the indicators mentioned in NC SHIP is the incarceration rate in North Carolina. According to the plan, incarcerated individuals with mental illnesses and substance use disorders face challenges obtaining treatment, and incarceration can often exacerbate symptoms.
“We owe it to our community members who are incarcerated to get quality treatment and get stabilized while they are there,” Caitlin Fenhagen, criminal justice resource director for Orange County, said. “So that when they come out they have the opportunities to go back to their families healthy, and find employment, find housing and all the things that significant behavioral health issues can be a barrier to doing so."