Improving Community Health

By Kathryn Ruscitto

Thursday, August 18, 2022

So much of what we are dealing with in our society can be addressed by improving community health

Besides socioeconomic factors, the physical environment, health behaviors, and access to clinical care — when rolled together — produce good or bad health outcomes, as noted by the CDC. Clearly, we know many diseases cannot be cured, but if we prevent the illness to begin with, results include a better outcome for the patient, and reductions in the use and cost of treatment.

I spend a great deal of time focused on the social determinants of health outcomes, and specifically advocating for Lyme disease research. The emergence of new viruses, escalating drug abuse, and gun violence have also contributed to growing concerns about prevention and treatment in our communities. The list could go on and on, but strategies to improve health outcomes in one area often spill over to positive impacts in other areas. The best example is exercise and weight reduction, and the impact that has on many chronic illnesses.

Community Health Is Everyone’s Responsibility

It’s not only the health department’s job — whether local or national — to set the stage for better community health. If organizations and employers promoted more educational initiatives for tobacco cessation, physical activity, nutrition counseling, CPR, and screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes, we would inevitably improve community health.

The CDC reports that 19% of U.S. employers currently offer tobacco cessation programs and 17% offer programs to address obesity and weight management. Surely, there’s room for growth, and plenty of resources are readily available.

Kathryn Ruscitto

Franklin Fry, Executive Director of the American Heart Association in Syracuse, suggests clinicians should remember and utilize free programs and resources offered by organizations such as the American Heart Association. In Central New York, the AHA’s priorities include addressing hypertension through programming around self-monitoring of blood pressure, improving nutritional security for SNAP users by promoting additional benefits for fruits and vegetables, and ensuring families are educated on cardiac emergency response through the teaching of Hands-Only CPR.

As our health organizations face COVID-19 and workforce shortages, the ability to offer community based screenings and health promotions has eroded. What can our practices, churches and social organizations to do help? Get behind programs you can sponsor, those that put the tools in the hands of patients to improve their health and their families’ health.

Kathryn Ruscitto, Advisor, can be reached at or at