Initial analyses point to numerous health challenges facing Tennessee, many of which are directly tied to disparities by income, education, region, and race/ethnicity. State, regional, and local agencies, along with private-sector partners, have taken steps to address their priority health concerns of obesity and tobacco use. The state is making progress in tackling childhood obesity by decreasing the percentage of students who are overweight or obese and increasing the percentage of students who are engaging in physical activity. The state has implemented some tobacco reduction efforts, but these are not always evidence-based or implemented with sufficient intensity or reach.
The demographic, cultural, and geographic features of each region present unique challenges relating to the health and well-being of residents, which require varied approaches to developing and implementing local initiatives. Urban counties, such as Shelby and Davidson, have developed several large-scale initiatives involving multiple sectors, which include approaches such as policy change, integration of treatment and prevention, and changes to the built environment. Leaders in many urban counties have also been able to take advantage of resources and partnerships available to them through local universities. Rural counties, on the other hand, appear to be more dependent on regional, statewide, and national programs.
Additional surveillance, data and information gathering, analysis, and reporting will examine the extent to which Tennessee’s initiatives are addressing the state’s priority health concerns, particularly among racial/ethnic minorities and populations with low incomes and low educational attainment. Future reports will also delve into the interaction between race/ethnicity, urban setting, and regional outcomes.