NACo > County Solutions > County Solutions Blog > Posts > Salt Lake County, Utah Holds NACo Community Dialogue to Improve County Health
County Solutions and Innovation Blog​​
June 09
Salt Lake County, Utah Holds NACo Community Dialogue to Improve County Health

Written by Andrew Whitacre​, NACo Health Associate.

Salt Lake County Township Executive Director Patrick Leary and Wasatch Front Regional Council Deputy Director Ted Knowlton engage in a discussion in the “Livable Communities and You” breakout session.

NACo, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute  (UWPHI) is conducting community dialogues in six counties across the country. The NACo Community Dialogue to Improve County Health sessions are intended to assist counties in assessing, planning and strategizing current efforts toward coordinating health initiatives to improve the overall health of residents in these counties. These sessions are a part of NACo’s Elected County Officials’ Guide to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps project, which aims to bring together public and private partners to share innovative ideas and strategize about how to resolve various challenges counties face. The third session of the series, titled Building Healthy Communities: Salt Lake County’s Future, was held in Salt Lake County, Utah on May 29th.

The Salt Lake County Community Dialogue focused on addressing the social determinants of health (e.g. education, income, employment, and housing) and how incorporating the collective impact model can improve health in the county. The collective impact model aims at creating large-scale social change by coordinating efforts across organizations. With over 150 participants, Salt Lake County brought together organizations and government agencies from many sectors, including education, regional and urban planning, finance, technology, human services, healthcare, environment (clean air and water), behavioral health, and others.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams began the Community Dialogue by discussing his goal to help make the county the healthiest in America through his Future We Choose initiative, which targets achieving collective goals like an improved economy, better educational opportunities and high quality services through collaboration, innovation and transformation throughout the county . He noted that although the county has one of the lowest adult smoking and unemployment rates, there are many health factors that the county needs to collectively address to improve the health of the community, including rates of sexually transmitted infections and children in poverty.

Dr. Len Novilla, Associate Professor in the Department of Health Science at Brigham Young University, provided the keynote address that focused on the impact of social determinants of health on length of life. She discussed how social determinants of health impact health outcomes in Salt Lake County with a focus on the nexus between education and life expectancy. She explained what healthy communities are and how the collective impact model or “health in all policies” can help improve community health.

Kitty Jerome, Director of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Action Center, gave an overview of the County Health Rankings model and the tools made available through the Roadmaps Action Center. Gary Edwards, Executive Director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, provided participants with a brief discussion of county specific County Health Rankings data for Salt Lake County, including comparisons to other Utah counties and U.S. top county performers of similar size (counties in the top 10 percent).

Following the general session portion of the Community Dialogue, participants engaged in three separate breakout sections. Six different breakout sessions were available for participants to choose from, which allowed each participant to attend three sessions of their choice. Breakout sessions included panels of local experts that discussed: A Healthy Bottom Line (role of jobs and wages in health); Get Schooled (how supporting children from early development through job readiness leads to better health outcomes); The Air We See? (improving air quality); The 3-4-50 what? (evidence-based interventions that assist in changing behaviors and preventing chronic disease); Mind the Matter (impact of childhood trauma on adult health and communities); and Livable Communities and You (what does a livable community look like). Participants engaged in interactive conversations with their peers from other sectors in the community and with experts in these respective fields.

SLC-Health-Communities.pngThe Community Dialogue was wrapped up with a presentation by Megan Joseph from the United Way of Santa Cruz County, CA on the collective impact model. She demonstrated how Santa Cruz County was able to utilize collective impact to engage community leaders from a variety of sectors to address important health issues in the county. For their work, Santa Cruz County received an RWJF Culture of Health Prize in 2013.

Lori Bays, Director of the Salt Lake County Human Services Department, urged participants to join one of Salt Lake County’s Healthy Communities groups. The Healthy Communities groups are located throughout the county and help to identify and address local community issues that impact health. Each of the groups determines their health priorities and implements programs to improve the health of their communities. The Salt Lake County Health Department has staff that participates as non-voting members of each Healthy Community group and the county provides support for infrastructure and health expertise. There are currently 8 Healthy Communities in the county, including Draper, Herriman, Magna, Riverton, Sandy, South Jordan, Taylorsville, and West Jordan.

Click here for more information on Salt Lake County Healthy Communities.

Wayne County, N.C. will hold the next Community Dialogue on September 4th.

For more information on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, listen to the NACo podcast or visit


At NACo’s 79th Annual Conference: County Solutions and Ideas Marketplace in New Orleans Parish, La., County Solutions and Innovation (CSI) will hold an interactive workshop Sunday, July 13 from 2:30-4:00pm that explores what counties can do and are doing to look beyond clinical services and access to care to improve the health of their communities. The workshop will provide participants with an opportunity to share best practices and network with other counties on this important topic. Click to register.

​To learn more about the Community Dialogues to Improve County Health and NACo’s Elected County Officials’ Guide to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, please contact Andrew Whitacre, Health Associate, or 202.942.4215.​


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