Pa.’s new 5-year plan aims to boost public health | Wednesday Morning Coffee

The plan, unveiled Tuesday, looks to fight health inequities and improve access to care

By: - April 5, 2023 7:03 am
Close up of a doctor hand with blue glove giving support and love to a patient at hospital. Coronavirus pandemic concept.

(Getty Images)

A new plan, unveiled by the state Health Department on Tuesday, aims to improve public health outcomes over the next five years across a wide variety of topic areas, from reducing tobacco and nicotine use to fighting hunger and increasing access to safe and affordable housing.

The public release of the agency’s State Health Improvement Plan, developed in concert with experts at the Healthy Pennsylvania Partnership (HPP), with support from Harrisburg University, comes in the midst of National Public Health Week, which ends on Sunday.

The goal of the plan is “to create a ‘Healthy Pennsylvania for All,’” acting Health Secretary Dr. Debra Bogen said in a statement, adding that “achieving that vision will take all of us working with people and organizations across the Commonwealth to increase opportunities for people to access quality health care, impactful programs, and needed resources.”

Volunteers Carol King-Woods (left) and Jean Painley, go through donations to the St. Vincent de Paul Society food pantry 12/2/20 (Uniontown Herald-Standard photo)

The plan broadly aims to improve public health, extend Pennsylvanians’ life expectancy, and eliminate health inequities officials said. But it also has a number of more specific goals.

They include:

  • Increasing the public’s financial well-being, food security, and safe affordable housing;
  • Increasing community safety by reducing the number of violent incidences that occur due to racism, discrimination, or domestic disputes;
  • Improving environmental health, focusing on environmental justice communities;
  • Increasing the population at a healthy weight through increasing availability and accessibility of physical activity and affordable nutritious food;
  • Reducing the impact of tobacco and nicotine use;
  • Increasing access to medical and oral health care;
  • Improving mental health and substance use outcomes through improved mental health services, trauma-informed trainings, and substance use interventions;
  • Improving health outcomes through improved chronic diseases management; and
  • Improving maternal and infant health outcomes by improving prenatal, perinatal, and postnatal care.

In their statement, agency officials noted that Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed $44.4 billion budget for the new fiscal year that starts July 1 addresses some of the goals included in the plan.

That includes a $2.3 million proposal to expand maternal health programming and study ways to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity; spending $500 million over the next five years for mental health services for students, and $16 million to increase the minimum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit by 50%, the Health Department said.

The document also serves as a roadmap for the Healthy Pennsylvania Partnership, which represents a broad cross-section of healthcare interests, by “working across the continuum from the social determinants of health, preventative interventions, and accessing quality and culturally humble care,” the agency said in its statement.

More information on the plan can be found on the Health Department’s website or by following the agency on Facebook and Twitter.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.