Adams County’s Journey to Promote Health, Well-Being, and Equity
Across Adams County, individuals and organizations are actively focused on creating a healthier future.
Five years into the Sentinel Communities Surveillance Project, Adams County’s capacity to address health and well-being remains anchored by its main hospital, Merit Health Natchez, and supported by a network of small federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). In the past, Adams County benefited from external funding and initiatives that allowed the community to address chronic health conditions. Though many of those resources have come to an end, there remains a strong focus on economic revitalization of the county. Over the past five years, there have been slight shifts in how people think about and approach health, though long-held cultural norms about health and healthcare being the same continue to influence beliefs and behaviors around health. Though there have been some efforts to summarize health equity issues via the HIA and conversations to acknowledge the racial legacy issues of the region, the county has not achieved greater progress in terms of collaboration and action around health equity to influence policy and systems change.
Health Priorities and Narrative
Merit Health Natchez and local federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) continue to serve as medical providers, while long-standing community-led efforts drive priorities around improving quality of life.
Large-scale initiatives supported by external funding have raised awareness around chronic health conditions and served as a starting point for promotion of healthy behaviors.
Efforts to improve well-being in the county have generally centered around preparation for the workforce and economic well-being of the community.
Health Priorities and Narrative
Over the past five years, there is increased discussion of behavioral links to the chronic health concerns of the county, as well as a growing investment in mental health.
The Natchez Trace Parkway continues to be an option for community members to use for exercise and recreational space, though it tends not to be used by all members of the community.
Conversations that focus directly on health equity have not markedly increased in the county, though there is slight movement.
While not explicitly about health equity, there has been some increase in the conversations about the underlying issues of the racial legacy in the region, a step in the county's journey to advance health equity.
Lessons Learned: Where is Adams County Five Years Later?
Despite some challenges, there are areas of optimism, particularly as it relates to positive change in the county’s interest to address longstanding racial dynamics and discuss the history of the slave trade. Coupled with optimism about new political leadership, this could provide an opening for connecting racism to health equity, though not yet realized.
Adams County will need to tackle this lack of holism when it comes to health, given its reliance on an individualistic and personal responsibility framework, potentially impeding a broader commitment to shared, community-wide health investments.
Going forward, it will be important to track how Adams County is or is not making the connection between racial history and health inequity, and the extent to which the county begins to assume a social determinants of health-centric approach rather than a healthcare-centric approach. This will require collaborations among the healthcare system, local government, and community-based organizations, which has not been sustained yet in many notable ways.
As Adams County contends with these challenges, other communities facing similar difficulties can learn what happens to the health narrative and investment in places with entrenched views of health issues, limited resources, and a slower pace to advance health equity.
Future research could consider what it takes to make progress in communities, which prioritize economic development, and how health can be a more explicit part of that focus.
Efforts to promote health and well-being have generally been guided by external funding and a segment of motivated community members who are dedicated to improving the quality of life for Adams County residents. Yet with little political will, limited resources, and a need for increased data capacity, Adams County continues to face challenges in making significant impacts in health and health equity.
Experienced community champions have the expertise to bring in external funding
New leadership and greater input by community members has led to some movement in changing power structures
Leveraging the historic preservation community has fostered important dialogue
Some community members remain uncomfortable discussing race relations
Lack of political will is a challenge to make health a shared value
There is a strong need for increased and robust data