Mecklenburg County, North Carolina is home to over 1 Million people, and the city of Charlotte has experienced extensive growth and development in the last two decades, becoming a national center for banking, finance, energy, and health care. The region’s increasingly diverse population include 50% Non-Hispanic White, 30% African-American, 13% Hispanic, and 6% Asian. The average age is 34 years old, and 39% of the population under age 18.
Despite this diversity and economic vitality, the county faces a number of pressing needs related to poverty, lack of social mobility, and health disparities driven by poor social determinants of health. Specifically, 15% of county residents live below the federal poverty level, creating challenges that contribute to poor health including lack of access to healthy foods and high quality housing. In early 2016, Charlotte was ranked number 50 out of 50 cities in a study by the Harvard Equality of Opportunity Project. This poor ranking was a wake-up call, and demonstrated and highlighted the plight of Charlotte’s impoverished communities who are burdened with generational poverty. Poverty rates and poor social mobility are manifested in the health of everyday citizens shown in increased chronic diseases, rates of infections with infectious diseases, and high numbers of unplanned pregnancies as indicated by rates of teen pregnancy and shorter intervals between pregnancies.
With the greatest determination to fix these issues, the Academy for Population Health Innovation (APHI) was formed in late 2016, as a joint effort of The Mecklenburg County Public Health Department and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. The initiative was designed around the model of an academic health department with the goal of advancing community health by focusing the community’s academic resources on key health issues.To create this change in our community our team serves as a catalyst for collaborative action through: (i) engaging community leaders across the spectrum to work together in addressing community health issues; (ii) using data to surface community health issues, deploy interventions, and measure impact; and (iii) identifying and deploying evidence-based interventions that facilitate change.