VHHA Community Health Legislative Dashboards Now Include Food Insecurity

VHHA’s Community Health Legislative Dashboards, which track key health care metrics in localities corresponding to the Commonwealth’s 100 House of Delegates and 40 state Senate districts, have recently been updated online. The dashboards have a new look, incorporate newly elected members of the Virginia General Assembly, and feature some new health metrics, one of which is “food insecurity.” There was a time when good health was considered to be the byproduct of good genes and health habits. We now know that just 25 percent of being healthy is related to genetics and healthy behaviors. Individual health outcomes are significantly influenced by community and economic environmental factors that are considered social determinants of health. They include housing, education, and access to food, among others. This means policy choices, not just personal ones, are influential in one’s health.1 The importance of access to proper nourishment in overall health is a key reason for the inclusion of food insecurity in the updated VHHA Legislative Dashboards, whose health indicators section includes rates and rankings for social determinants of health alongside traditional health indicators, such as rates for obesity and heart disease mortality. The chart below examines food insecurity in Virginia localities as measured by the percentage of a locality’s population that lacks adequate access to food. Food security is a measure of the ability to access food. Addressing food insecurity involves consideration of a population’s feeding practices, food preparation, diet diversity, and food safety. It also includes ease of access to local and fresh foods. That can be a challenge for economically disadvantaged neighborhoods that are considered food deserts due to a lack of access to fresh food. School breakfast programs and food purchase vouchers are two well-known federal initiatives focused on addressing food insecurity for families and children. (2/16)

1 https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/socialdeterminants/faq.html