Promoting Equitable Healthy Aging in Public Health
Community health improvement practice is uniquely positioned to promote equitable healthy aging so that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to optimize health and well-being at all life stages and abilities across the life course.
Declining life expectancy and health disparities among population subgroups across the United States underscore the need to promote “Equitable Healthy Aging in Community Health Improvement Practice.” My coauthors Marissa Levine and Britney Veal and I were pleased to create the Equitable Healthy Aging in Public Health Toolkit Report to provide guidance for community health practice.
The Equitable Healthy Aging in Public Health Toolkit provides local health departments with guidance on advancing equitable healthy aging in community health improvement practice. The toolkit includes modules on foundational principles such as social justice, social determinants of health and intersectionality across the life course, age-friendly public health frameworks, and evidence-based actions to advance equitable healthy aging in community health improvement infrastructure, assessment, implementation planning, and practice. The toolkit is based on contemporaneous public health knowledge and practice on healthy aging and health equity along with advisory input from the Trust for America’s Health and the National Association of City and County Health Officials. The toolkit was informed by Florida Department of Health practitioners (n = 79) and further vetted and well received with a statewide master class of public health leaders (n = 29). The toolkit is publicly available and free of charge at https://usf.app.box.com/s/msc9k16qlmysy3m2hr61lb92ioddgkfh.
Equitable healthy aging means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to optimize health and wellbeing at all life stages and abilities across the life course. Equitable healthy aging is achieved when every person has the opportunity to attain their full health potential to age well and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstance.
Achieving equitable healthy aging in public health practice requires recognizing the unique and cumulative factors that shape health and wellbeing in later life. This requires actions to advance accessible, inclusive, empirically informed and culturally relevant policies, systems and environments that enable healthy aging. This also means redesigning systems and structures that better promote health equity in later life.
Our report provides equitable healthy aging considerations in alignment with Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships (MAPP) 2.0 – the nationally accredited planning and implementation model that guides community health improvement practice across the United States. With an emphasis on health equity, community engagement and root causes of health inequities, local public health practice is uniquely positioned to advance equitable healthy aging across the diversity of our nation’s communities – small and large, urban, suburban and rural – where we are born, live, work, play and age.
The toolkit begins by framing and defining the scope of equitable healthy aging vis-à-vis the roles and opportunities for public health. Foundational principles and frameworks are presented to bound practice along with core models including the age-friendly public health system and age-friendly communities. The final section of the report identifies explicit considerations for departments of health to enhance equitable healthy aging across the phases and steps of MAPP 2.0. Because MAPP 2.0 is in stages of evolution (2021-2023) this report should be viewed within the context of additional NACCHO guidance. Embedded throughout, the report provides links to a range of helpful resources that provide expanded information to more fully understand content of interest.
The toolkit report was developed by the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health and School of Aging Studies in consultation with the Trust for America’s Health and the National Association of City and County Health Officials. You can read more about the development of the toolkit in our article “Equitable Healthy Aging in Community Health Improvement Practice” in the July 2023 issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.
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Dr. Kathy Black is a Professor of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida. Dr. Black has a PhD from SUNY and Masters degrees in Social Work, Gerontology and Public Health from USC/UCLA. Dr. Black is a Next Avenue Top 50 National Influencer in Aging, Hartford Geriatric Faculty Scholar and Fellow in the Gerontological Society of America. Dr. Black has 40+ years of experience in the field of aging as practitioner, educator and researcher.
Marissa Levine is Professor of Public Health Practice at the University of South Florida (USF) College of Public Health and collaborating faculty to the Department of Family Medicine at the USF Morsani College of Medicine in Tampa, Florida. Her primary focus is on sustainable and equitable population health improvement. Dr. Levine directs the USF Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice where she teaches a positive, strength-based, systems thinking approach to leading in complex contexts.
Britney Veal graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of South Florida. She is doctoral candidate in the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida researching modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline as well as maximizing equitable healthy aging using a life course perspective.