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Public Health Leaders’ Conference Addresses Health Equity

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Public health leaders from across the state assembled in Raleigh Jan. 23–24 to share goals and objectives to advance health equity in North Carolina in 2020 and beyond.  The theme of this year’s Public Health Leaders’ Conference, Shifting the Trajectory: Advancing Equity in Public Health, high

lights a statewide effort to reduce health disparities among North Carolina’s populations and communities. 

This focus spans across the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), the Division of Public Health (DPH) and local health departments throughout the state. “While the Department celebrated accomplishments in 2019 like North Carolina’s lowest infant mortality rate in recorded history, health disparities we see across our state persist and, in some instances, have worsened,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD. “If we want to get to a truly healthy state, we need to dig deeper, prioritize our resources and meet the challenge of improving health equity for every North Carolinian.”

One tool that will help measure progress toward reducing health disparities is Healthy North Carolina 2030, which was formally introduced during the conference. The plan, which is the result of a partnership between NCDHHS, DPH and the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, outlines the state’s health objectives for the next decade and guides efforts by NCDHHS, DPH, local health departments and other partners. Healthy North Carolina 2030 shifts the state to focus on health equity. A task force chose 21 health indicators, ranging from social and economic factors, physical environment, health behaviors, clinical care and health outcomes. 

The plan aims for everyone to attain the highest level of personal health, regardless of demographic characteristics, by incorporating these drivers of health outcomes.  “We want all North Carolinians to have the opportunity for health and well-being,” said Dr. Betsey Cuervo Tilson, the State Health Director and NCDHHS’ Chief Medical Officer.

“Addressing all the factors that drive health, both medical and non-medical, are fundamentally important to achieving that vision. The framework of Healthy North Carolina 2030 will provide a strong road map for our state, partners, and communities to collaborate and work towards a shared goal of better health.”

NCDHHS Assistant Secretary for Public Health Mark Benton noted that health starts in  homes, schools, workplaces and communities. 

“It begins with the services available in our neighborhoods, the quality of our housing, the safety of our communities, the food we have access to, and our employment opportunities,” he said. “This means that achieving the conditions for better health will require us to focus on the places where health happens the most: our communities.”

The Public Health Leaders’ Conference also featured plenary speakers who are champions of public health and leaders in their fields. Panelists and breakout session mediators introduced concepts and strategies for mobilizing communities and partners for action toward health equity both locally and statewide.

Poster displays from DPH showcased the variety of ongoing research and data studies within the division, and partner organization exhibitors provided information on their work in North Carolina. Speakers offered special thanks to the conference’s partners and organizers for their generosity and support.

For more information on Healthy North Carolina 2030, including access to the full report, visit

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