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  4:55 a.m. November 14, 2013
Healthy Knox hosts first-ever summit on health equity in East Tennessee

KNOXVILLE – Why do the lowest income areas of Knox County have the highest average food prices?1 What are food deserts and why do they occur in East Tennessee? Why are asthma rates among those without a high school diploma nearly twice as high as those with a college degree?2 These and other similar questions are what health and healthcare policymakers, planners, advocates, and providers will explore today at East Tennessee’s first-ever health equity summit, “Equity in East Tennessee: Why Health Equity Matters.”

“Health equity is about creating and sustaining the conditions which facilitate opportunities for everyone in our community to live healthy lives,” said Dr. Paul Campbell Erwin, professor and head of the University of Tennessee Department of Public Health. “It matters to us in East Tennessee because we know that health, and the opportunities to be healthy, are strongly tied to education and employment, and that all of these – good health, quality education and meaningful jobs that pay well – are not equally available to all. Thus, ultimately, health equity is about fairness and social justice.”

Dr. Adewale Troutman, the president of the American Public Health Association Executive Board, will serve as the keynote speaker at the summit. Considered a national leader in health equity, Dr. Troutman’s career encompasses clinical emergency medicine, hospital administration, and academic and public health practice. His experience includes special consultancies with the World Health Organization, founding the first Center for Health Equity at a local health department and creating the Mayors Healthy Hometown Movement.

“Equity is as crucial to determining our health as genetics and individual choice,” said Dr. Martha Buchanan, director of the Knox County Health Department. “For instance, we can encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables, but what if healthy food is not affordable or available in their neighborhood? Likewise, we can encourage people to get more physical activity by walking, but what if they don’t have a safe place to walk in their community?”

Beck Cultural Exchange Center Executive Director Robert Booker, East Tennessee Quality Growth Board Chair Berny Ilgner, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett will welcome guests. The group attending will hear the most recent inequity data for Knox County before they break into workgroups to discuss what is currently being done to address the issue. The goal is to solidify engagement across multiple sectors to identify and implement strategies that will work in East Tennessee.

The summit is made possible by Together! Healthy Knox, the Knox County Health Department, Plan East Tennessee, and the College of Nursing and the Department of Public Health at the University of Tennessee. A second health equity summit is planned for 2014.

T!HK was convened in May 2011 by the Knox County Health Department, which continues to provide facilitation and staff support. T!HK is now an initiative of the Community Health Council (CHC), which was established in January 2013 by ordinance and resolution of the Knox County Commission, Knoxville City Council and Farragut Board of Aldermen. The CHC’s purposes are to guide a community health improvement process (T!HK) and to act as an advisory body to elected and appointed officials in matters of health. The CHC has 21 seats, 20 of which are currently filled. Six members are appointed by elected officials (Knox County Mayor, Knox County Commission, Knoxville Mayor, Knoxville City Council, Farragut Mayor and Farragut Board of Aldermen); the other fifteen are elected by current CHC members. For more information, please visit

1. University of Tennessee Graduate Public Health Nutrition Program (2008): Food Equity in Knox County: 2008 Community Assessment, Knoxville, TN
2. 2008 Knox County Behavioral Risk Factor Survey

Published November 14, 2013

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