What’s Public Health Got to Do With…Creating and Leading Policy Change to Support Older Adults?
Washington, DC – February 2023
In 2017, Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), in partnership with The John A. Hartford Foundation, led a convening to explore opportunities for the public health sector to contribute to an age-friendly society and improve the health and well-being of older adults. The result was the creation of the Age-Friendly Public Health Systems (AFPHS) original 5C’s Framework, an outline of public health roles and partnerships in healthy aging. The Framework was tested in Florida and explored further in Michigan, Mississippi, and Washington, which all became “proving grounds” for the 5Cs. TFAH learned throughout the collaboration with these states that the most important component of AFPHS transformation is leadership. Thus, in 2022, TFAH added the 6th “C”, creating and leading policy, systems, and environmental changes to improve older adult health and well-being.
Throughout the Florida pilot and healthy aging activities with other states, TFAH has identified new strategies and levers for developing and exercising AFPHS leadership. States can do the following: Create and lead coalitions with other state and local stakeholders to achieve the designation as an Age-Friendly State or Community through AARP’s Livable Communities movement,
- Lead the development of new data systems or data profiles to identify older adult health priorities and partnerships, and
- Convene multi-sector stakeholders in the assessment and planning process, particularly on emergency preparedness plans.
As state and local departments of health expand their roles in healthy aging, new opportunities have arisen that demonstrate how to use new and/or existing funding to lead healthy aging activities. A key example is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure program, which provides funds for state health departments to promote a “strong public health approach to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.” Recipients, such as TFAH’s partner, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), have used this grant to fund innovative means to develop solutions, such as research into the effects of social determinants of health (SDOH), generating community awareness, and hosting gatherings to discuss brain health and its associated inequities and disparities.
Dr. Kina White, Director, Office of Community Health Improvement for MSDH, leads both the BOLD grant at the MSDH and the AFPHS project in the state. Dr. White is leveraging the MS BOLD grant to create and lead age-friendly partnerships to improve opportunities for optimal health not just for individuals living with dementia, but for all older Mississippians. These opportunities include collaboration between the Age-Friendly Communities efforts (through AARP’s livable communities movement) and the Dementia Friendly Communities initiative to build resilient communities and improve social connectedness. To support advancing Age-Friendly Health Systems, Dr. White is leading a collaboration among the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the Alzheimer’s Association. The development of an AFPHS state action plan based on the AFPHS 6Cs framework has also opened numerous doors for new partnerships across the state, with a focus on equity and the social determinants of health.
TFAH looks forward to further exploring the 6Cs tenets through the AFPHS training series in 2023. See you at future trainings.