April 5, 2021
The City of Alexandria and Alexandria Health Department recognize and celebrate Public Health Week during the first full week of April. Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a public health crisis that is unprecedented in our country and around the world. The pandemic’s staggering toll in human lives, health and well-being has been matched by the resolve and dedication of public health professionals and Alexandrians.
In addition to the COVID-19 response, the Alexandria Health Department operates public health specialty clinics; helps communities to prepare for, respond to and recover from public health emergencies; assesses food safety at restaurants and permitted facilities; investigates communicable diseases and offers guidance to prevent their spread; and advances community health and well-being.
Spending on public health results in important health gains for communities. Improving the health of our population not only has benefits for well-being, but there are financial benefits as well. According to the National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine, each $1 spent on public health results in more than $14 savings on individual health care and other social programs.
The focus of Public Health Week 2021 is rebuilding after the pandemic by offering essential services, while focusing on building resiliency and improving community health in Alexandria. Learn more about how public health professionals working with the community can build an even better Alexandria.
COVID-19 illustrates how structural racism drives health disparities and unequal outcomes. Race and ZIP code are two of the strongest determinants of COVID-19 rates of infection, hospitalization and deaths. Alexandria’s Black and Latinx residents are more than three times as likely as white residents to contract COVID-19 and are more likely to be hospitalized and die as a result.
Health care only determines about 10% of overall health. Occupation, neighborhood and education are responsible for most opportunities to be healthy or unhealthy. The Alexandria Health Department conducted a Community Health Assessment (CHA) in 2019 to examine those factors and the disparities in health within our community. The same factors also determine likelihood of exposure to COVID-19.
In response to the CHA, the Alexandria Health Department has developed a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) focused on policy and systemic solutions. While COVID-19 slowed down the development process, the delay provided an additional opportunity to look at the CHIP strategies and tactics through a new lens. During a time marked by economic insecurity, social isolation and racial injustice, the plan addresses the root causes of poverty, mental health issues and housing disparities. The CHIP will be released in Spring 2021.