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Senior Advisor for Health and Wellness

A vibrant, resilient city is defined by several factors including the health of its communities. Nashville is a thriving city with a high-quality of life as well as a leader in high-quality, innovative healthcare services. However, Nashville’s health outcomes lag behind other comparable cities. Mayor Briley is committed to promoting a culture of health in Nashville by empowering our residents to take steps to improve their overall health and well-being. Good health and well-being is not a destination but a journey and health happens with the day-to-day decisions we make, such as incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into our diets or leaving our cars at home to walk to a transit stop. In 2018, Mayor Briley is focusing on initiatives to help Nashville improve its health and well-being and promote Music City as a healthy city.

Chronic Disease

Heart disease is the number one killer of Nashville women; in fact it kills more women than all cancers combined. However, when it comes to heart disease and stroke, women are men are not the same. Symptoms and risk factors can be different, however most research and treatments are tested on men. Nashville is committed to changing the conversation on women’s heart disease and have partnered with the Women’s Heart Alliance to help make that happen. It’s time for Nashville women to get our hearts checked, learn the facts on heart disease and take steps to improve our heart health. We have a good team in place to move initiatives in Nashville to create more awareness around women’s heart disease and help Nashville women get heart healthy in 2018.

Infectious Disease

In December, the Mayor's Office, the Metro Public Health Department and community partners launched Nashville’s Ending the Epidemic planning process. In 2018, Nashville is committed to developing a community-led planning process to End the HIV epidemic once and for all. We have the science and the tools at our disposal to make sure that everyone knows their HIV status and those infected can get early treatment and reach viral suppression, effectively eliminating their risk of transmission. We also have access to prevention tools to help those most at risk avoid infection. HIV also thrives in the face of stigma and discrimination so we must commit to educating the public and breaking down barriers so we can reach those most at risk.

Behavioral Health

1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness in a given year. Fatal drug overdoses have doubled in Davidson County in the past 5 years. Overdose is now the leading cause of death of Americans under age 50 and 2/3rds of American families report being impacted by addiction. At least 50% of those with a substance abuse disorder are estimated to have a co-occuring mental illness. Through the Community Mental Health Systems Improvement Workgroup, Metro has made strides in expanding opportunities for diversion for those with mental illness from the criminal justice system. Mayor Briley is committed to making an even broader commitment to addressing behavioral health in a systemic way in 2018 through a community-led process by continuing to focus on diversion issues and emergency response to drug overdose while also focusing more upstream on prevention and education initiatives and exploring opportunities to expand treatment resources in Nashville. An important strategy of the efforts to prevent substance use is a partnership with schools to present evidenced-based programming to young people rooted in the pillars of social and emotional learning.

Social Determinants of Health

Health and prosperity is closely linked in our community. In fact, one of the strongest predictors of health outcomes is where you live. Neighborhoods with concentrated poverty offer more stress, more violence as well as fewer community resources to help improve health such as access to safe and affordable recreation and access to healthy food. Significant food deserts exist in Davidson County which create access issues particularly for those low-income residents without reliable transportation. Food deserts tend to correspond with food swamps—a low-income area with an overabundance of unhealthy fast food options. Both food deserts and food swamps are correlated with high rates of obesity and chronic disease. Under the leadership of the Mayor’s Office, Nashville is developing a Fruit and Vegetable Rx program with local healthcare providers, food providers and other community partners. The goal of the program is to increase access to healthy food in underserved communities, better link healthcare with food insecurity resources and provide education on the importance of good nutrition and its connection to the avoidance of chronic disease.

Staff Directory

Zak, Kristen
Senior Advisor for Health and Wellness Policy