Gillings School’s NC Institute for Public Health collaborates with John Rex Endowment to explore social determinants of health

January 5, 2018

The North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH), housed in the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, has worked with the John Rex Endowment to produce the report Exploring the Social Determinants of Health – Wake County, an assessment and online Story Map that describes how conditions such as the number of high-quality child-care centers, existence of food deserts and high housing costs can affect children and their families’ health and well-being.

The project features a written report and an Esri® Story Map,  an interactive map that includes narrative text, images and multimedia content. The story map uses geographic information system (GIS) technology to describe how current conditions in the places where children and families learn, work and play in Wake County affect their well-being.

Along with other tools and research, the assessment will inform the John Rex Endowment’s upcoming strategic planning process to define funding priorities toward creating an environment where children and families in Wake County live healthy lives.

NCIPH staff members mapped 12 key indicators to identify by geography the assets and areas with higher opportunities for improvements at the neighborhood level. The process allows users to look both at specific indicators across the county and to see which indicators are of most significance in specific geographies.

NCIPH staff also conducted interviews with key informants from diverse sectors serving the community to gain a deeper understanding of the county’s most pressing issues, resources, assets and challenges. For example, interviews with organizations representing workforce and economic development, substance abuse, homelessness, education and more all confirmed that housing affordability is a pressing issue.

Likewise, multiple organizations reported that children’s mental health needs across the county are growing and the current capacity to meet such needs is inadequate. The Story Map showed that 12 percent of Wake County residents are living without health insurance (compared to the state estimate of 14 percent), but certain areas of the county experience rates as high as 30 percent. Encouragingly, health clinics and providers who accept low-income patients are working to screen consistently for housing, food security and personal safety — an example of collaboration having a positive impact on the social determinants of health.

Jeannine Herrick

Jeannine Herrick

“We’re impressed with the body of current initiatives focused on improving conditions for families in Wake County,” said Jeannine Herrick, MPH, NCIPH project manager. “We are honored to participate in continuing conversations focused on factors that affect the long-term outcomes for children and families. Wake County is growing in size and prosperity overall, but with that comes the need for additional supports for a growing youth population and intentional efforts to protect families who struggle to thrive due to changing conditions.”

Kellan Moore, MPH, president and chief executive officer of the John Rex Endowment, said that the assessment and Story Map are useful resources that can be used to verify, validate and learn about communities.

“We want to share what we’ve learned in hope that they community can benefit from this valuable information to inform programs and planning,” Moore said.

The executive summary and Wake County Story Map are available online.

The John Rex Endowment’s funding plan, which will reflect the direction set by the strategic plan, will be released in mid-2018.

About the North Carolina Institute for Public Health
Founded in 1999, the North Carolina Institute for Public Health is the service and outreach arm of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. The Institute serves as a bridge between academia and public health practice partners, including state and local public health agencies, health-care providers and community organizations.

About the John Rex Endowment
The John Rex Endowment supports an environment in which children and families in greater Wake County can live healthy lives. Guided by the belief that all children should reach their full potential, the John Rex Endowment works with the community to support the physical, mental and emotional well-being of children.


Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or