Kyle Willman Health Equity Interview

Kyle Willman Health Equity Interview

Health Equity Social Media Campaign
We had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Willman from Butte County Public Health to discuss health care challenges, program improvements, and health priorities of Butte County. Click here for more campaign information and view other interviews!

Kyle Willman
Health Assessment, Planning & Equity Coordinator
Butte County Public Health

Butte County Health Equity

What are some of the top health care challenges we are facing in Butte County?
“Our 2019 Community Health Assessment (CHA) Identified the following top community health priorities: access to health care, preventative practices like screenings and immunizations, chronic diseases and conditions, mental health and substance use disorders, and trauma sustained due to adverse childhood experiences. This assessment was completed before data from the Camp Fire and of course, the ongoing global pandemic was released and able to be integrated, but preliminary data in an upcoming CHA update indicate that mental health and substance use disorders and preventative practices in particular need to be prioritized, as incidences associated with negative health effects in those areas are up.”

How can we improve local program implementation to reduce health disparities?
“Increasing community engagement through innovative incentives like childcare at community meetings and engagement micro-grants, focusing on a cross-sectoral continuum of care through adopting health in all policies approach both throughout county agencies and amongst our various partners in the community, pursuing policy interventions that address the underlying social determinants of health contributing to many health problems (economic stressors, issues with the built environment like lack of access to affordable and healthy food, health care provider supply and distribution throughout the county, increasing opportunities for low cost/no-cost healthy recreation, increasing transportation options, and lack of housing supply).”

What are priorities that health education programs should focus on to improve community health and awareness?
There are so many wonderful and effective programs addressing our health priorities, but I want to emphasize again the things I mentioned in question 2 as they are being implemented locally. The cross-sectoral, continuum of care approach embodied by the Help Me Grow initiative to connect young children and families in need with the community’s resources that might be able to address their obstacles to a healthier life. The policy campaign of our department’s Tobacco program to achieve and create smoke-free indoor environments at multi-unit housing complexes so that every resident starts with a healthier home environment and those that choose to smoke can do so at a designated space outside.”

“There are the vaccination clinics being put on by our COVID-19 division to give community members an opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19 through strategic partnerships with trusted community organizations and clinic adjustments to be mindful of the demands on a working family or the various other needs of the entire population of our county. Additionally, I believe our ongoing effort as a local health system to increase the usage of safe prescribing guidelines and the supply of x-waivered physicians that can administer medication-assisted treatment to people struggling with opioid use is incredibly important based on the nature of the opioid epidemic as a phenomenon. I think improving the amount of community engagement is a key factor to the effective implementation of any intervention our department is implementing.”

“Lastly, I think helping our community understand that underlying factors we might not associate with health have huge effects on our health. A recent study by two housing organizations showed that there is a gap of $8.99 between the median Chico renter’s hourly wage and the wage that someone would need to stably afford a two-bedroom apartment there. Things like, housing supply, daycare costs, and availability, how many available jobs in the area pay adequate wages to afford stable housing; these all have huge impacts on our health as a community, even those of us that do not feel the first-order impacts of some of these issues are likely being negatively affected by them.”

Given your experiences with Butte County Department of Employment and Social Services Butte County Public Health, what is your vision for health equity in the upcoming years for Butte County?
“I think for me it will really be the adaptation of a Health in All Policies approach becoming more and more central to the way our County and our health system conduct their affairs that will be key; especially important is that people make more connections to how the social and economic decisions made in our communities affect our health. People developing chronic conditions or having acute issues because of social and economic stressors are expensive to take care of; the more we focus on those social and economic stressors being removed, the more effectively our health system will be able to meet the needs of our community, and likewise, we will have more resources to further improve Butte County. The issue with this model is of course the effects of the removal of those stressors I mentioned take time and are not always immediately obvious; the challenge is holding course on actions that remove those stressors until the effects of success can be adequately demonstrated.”