Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, medical director for Buncombe County, reflects on positive shifts in our local health and wellness culture.
- Larger focus on the social determinants of health: Up to 80% of a person’s overall health is driven by social and environmental factors — like housing, education and income — and the behaviors they influence. Policymakers, insurers and others are working to address these factors that go beyond the doctor’s office visit.
- Mothering Asheville’s efforts to eliminate disparities in infant mortality rates: In Buncombe County, black babies are four times more likely than white babies to die before their first birthday. This is unnatural, unacceptable and a result of structural racism. Mothering Asheville’s efforts center around building community capacity, addressing clinical bias and advocating for policy change.
- Upstream North Carolina: This initiative provides clinical training and support to increase access to contraception and patient-centered reproductive life planning. This will give individuals more control over their health and well-being by reducing unintended pregnancies.
- Increased support for harm reduction: Through ongoing community conversations and response to the opioid epidemic, I believe there is growing support for more harm reduction tools like medication-assisted treatment, naloxone and clean injection supplies. I am hopeful that more organizations and individuals will join these efforts to save lives and reduce communicable disease.
- Shield of Protection Immunization Coalition: Since 2018, parents, grandparents, nurses, doctors, childcare and school administrators from WNC have been working on strategies to improve immunization rates in our area. I am especially hopeful about peer-to-peer education of vaccine-hesitant parents.