Jeffco Health Officials: Violence Is a Public Health Issue

Dr. Mark Wilson discusses violence as a public health issue during the 2019 State of Health in Jefferson County address. (Source: Mary Scott Hodgin,WBHM)

Violence is the newest strategic focus for the Jefferson County Department of Health. During Tuesday’s annual State of Health in Jefferson County address, Dr. Mark Wilson said the department added the issue in response to increasing rates of homicide.

“It (violence) isn’t something that our health department has devoted resources to in the past,” Wilson said, “but it is clearly a public health problem.”

Wilson said the health department is working with city officials in Birmingham on a campaign to address gun violence. He said last year’s homicide rate in Jefferson County was nearly the highest it has been in three decades.

During Tuesday’s speech, Wilson also discussed county initiatives to reduce tobacco use, expand services for chronic and infectious disease, and improve birth outcomes. He said the health department continues to focus on mental health and substance abuse.

“We are trying to get away from the idea that mental health should be viewed as different from physical health,” Wilson said.

In 2018, there was a decline in the annual number of deaths due to opioid overdose in Jefferson County. Wilson said he hopes that trend will continue, but it is too early to tell. He also said there has been a significant increase in the use of methamphetamine in recent years.