Governors hold a unique capacity to help promote a culture of health using the tools of their state governments in purchasing, regulating, and policymaking. In their 2015 State of the State or inaugural addresses, governors referenced a variety of health issues and are recognizing the need for policies to focus more broadly in order to promote good health and build healthy communities. A new NASHP brief looks at the ways governors are creating a culture of health by developing policy agendas to make their states healthier.
Cross Sector Collaboration to End Silos of Care and Focus on the Whole Person
State officials are taking a cross cutting, more coordinated approach to create a culture of health by partnering across state agencies and sectors to look at health from a more holistic perspective.
- Michigan’s Governor Snyder proposes combining the state’s health and human services departments to achieve more coordinated processes across state agencies and create “people-focused” policies.
- In Nebraska, Governor Ricketts notes that the “people who need our help do not fit neatly into the silos we have created…we need a system that cares for the entire person.”
- Ohio’s Governor Kasich calls for greater coordination of care and a more holistic, less siloed approach to providing social services to individuals and families in poverty, and notes the state plans to address health issues through action involving other sectors.
- In Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper is looking at community design and the intersection between the environment and health by seeking improved bike and hiking trails and outdoor programs.
Several governors called for a comprehensive approach to caring for children through childhood interventions. Access to education and quality nutrition in states are contributing to efforts to achieve health equity and a culture of health.
- Governor Deal of Georgia is focusing on education as a means to break the cycle of poverty, which is inextricably linked to poor health. Investing in providing quality education “leads to a good job, a stable family, and the stairway to the future,” all of which contribute to a culture of health. He calls on state legislators to do their part in assuring that “a child’s hopes of success aren’t determined by his or her ZIP Code.”
- In Virginia, Governor McAuliffe’s budget plan includes funding to expand school breakfast programs “so that every Virginia student can start his or her day ready to learn.” The governor recognized that quality nutrition is essential for good health and is “a key element of increasing student achievement.”
Access to Health Care
Access to affordable and equitable healthcare is a critical piece of achieving a culture of health, and many states are working hard to ensure that communities can provide individuals with the care they need to be healthy and productive citizens. In addition to addressing the expansion of health care coverage through health insurance exchanges and Medicaid programs, governors talked about how states are improving access to health services through programs assisting specific populations.
- In Texas, Governor Abbott outlined budget priorities that included a commitment to improving military service members’ and veterans’ access to mental health screenings, enhancing women’s access to screening and treatment for cancer and postpartum depression, and increasing the availability of in-home care attendants to care for people with disabilities and seniors.
- Alabama’s Governor Bentley acknowledged the link between health issues and “access to quality healthcare.”
- Governor Daugaard of South Dakota highlighted efforts to expand the healthcare workforce and incentivize practice in rural areas to address the unique challenges of ensuring access to care in regions of the state with large rural populations.
Employment Opportunities and Support
Stable employment in safe working conditions leads to better health, enabling individuals to provide their families with nutritious foods, quality childcare, educational opportunities and healthier homes. Governors across the country are focusing on improved access to employment opportunities and support to improve the health of the residents in their states.
- Governor Bill Walker of Alaska observed, “People cannot work, hunt, or fish unless they are healthy.”
- In Kentucky, Governor Beshear spoke to the importance of an educated, well-trained, and healthy workforce.
- Governor Kasich discussed the work Ohio is doing to create jobs and provide opportunities to help all residents of the state.
Governors are increasingly committed to fostering a culture of health in their states as evidenced in their 2015 State of the State addresses. What is your state doing to promote a culture of health? Let us know in a comment below.