What is a Root Cause Team?
In order to understand root causes, it is helpful to think of a tree. When the soil is rich and full of nutrients, the roots will thrive and produce healthy branches and leaves. When the soil is poor, the ability of the tree to thrive is lowered.
Thousands of research studies have shown that in much the same way a tree is impacted by its soil, a person's health is impacted by their social, political, physical and economic environments.
When people have access to thriving communities with quality housing, transportation, education, food systems, employment and healthcare, they have better health outcomes. Individual behavior choices do impact health, but research shows that improving root causes is much more effective than attempting to influence individual behaviors.
Where Public Health Comes In
Public health has long recognized that improving population health is important. Spraying for mosquitos to prevent bloodborne disease outbreaks is more effective than encouraging individuals to avoid mosquito bites. Inspecting restaurants to prevent foodborne illnesses is more effective than encouraging individuals to wash their hands. In the same way, improving the socioeconomic factors which affect health is more effective than encouraging individuals to make healthy choices.
Recognizing this, the CDC has called for public health departments across the country to focus on the social determinants, or root causes, of health. The Kentucky state health department has also called for all local health departments to prioritize health equity as a foundational public health service. Focusing on root causes is also required for national public health accreditation.
Our Root Cause Teams
Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) is leading the nation in answering this call. LMPHW’s Center for Health Equity staff conduct research, engage in community partnerships, conduct health impact assessments and community health needs assessments, develop community health improvement plans, and work together on Root Cause Teams. Each team focuses on one of the social determinants of health. The teams are:
- Early Childhood Development
- Food & Built Environment
- Housing & Economic Development
- Environmental Quality
- Social & Cultural Capital