Thursday, March 22, 2012

Special Guest Blogger: Healthy! Capital Counties Could Mean Change for the Better in Health and Healthcare

This week, I have asked one of our key senior staff at Ingham County to be a guest blogger. The Ingham County Health Department is one of the best public health agencies in the country (and I would argue the absolute best!). Their mission is to protect and promote the health of Ingham County residents. They do this through programs to prevent and control communicable diseases, programs to protect citizens from environmental hazards and several efforts and programs to link county residents to an organized system of health care. The Department also conducts research to document the health status and health problems of the community and works with the community to develop strategies to improve health and well-being. In my ten years on the Board of Commissioners, we have had two unbelievable Health Department Directors - Bruce Bragg and Dean Sienko. With Dr. Sienko's retirement, the Board promoted one of deputies to the Director position. Dr. Renee Canady has been aggressive and effective and is putting her stamp on the Health Department. I am confident that the Health Department and public health in Ingham County is in good hands for many years to come! I asked her to blog this week, and her submission is below.

As with any community, there are many health needs and concerns in our region; access to health care, tobacco policy, the obesity epidemic, substance abuse, mental health and maternal and child health are just a few. But how to we determine which concern is a priority and how we should address it. Well, there is such an endeavor underway in the Capital area region!

Through an effort known as “Healthy! Capital Counties”, area hospitals and local health departments have initiated a comprehensive Community Health Assessment in order to better understand the health status of our community, prioritize health issues and design strategies to improve our health. . Although in Mid Michigan, stakeholders in Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties have a history of working together on community health assessments and then using what they learn to create health improvement plans, such an effort has not occurred in long time, as a matter of fact the last health assessment took place in the mid-1990’s. A new, comprehensive health assessment is underway in the three counties that could have a big impact on how we tackle public health issues. . .

The timing was right for such a comprehensive Community Health Assessment. To understand why this health assessment is occurring now and why it is different, you need to try a little alphabet soup: PPACA and PHAB.

The first driver of our CHA is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) also called Health Reform. PPACA has created an incentive for non-profit hospitals to participate in community health assessments. Non-profit hospitals have always been required by the IRS to donate some of their resources to promote health and access to health care in their communities. But now PPACA requires them to use community health assessments and community health improvement plans to determine at least in part how those resources are allocated, and to report on what they are doing about the health needs identified. Hospitals are encouraged to collaborate with local health departments and other groups in this work. Honestly, this is always the way we have done things in Mid Michigan, but PPACA has created new energy for this activity.

The second driver of our CHA is the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). Local health departments are accredited by their states to certify that they can indeed protect the health of the public. Now accreditation is being offered at the national level by PHAB. National accreditation will bring prestige to a local health department and its community, which may be an advantage in future federal and foundation funding opportunities. To receive national accreditation, local health departments must have completed—you guessed it—a recent community health assessment, health improvement plan, and a strategic plan. Again, that’s always been how we do things in Mid Michigan, but PHAB has given us a really good reason to do it again, now.

This health assessment has created a nice and friendly website. There are a huge number of community organizations and individuals participating in the The hospital and health department participants are:

McLaren Greater Lansing
Sparrow Health System
Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital
Eaton Rapids Medical Center
Barry-Eaton District Health Department
Ingham County Health Department
Mid-Michigan District Health Department

As its first task, the HCC team is finishing up an analysis of data on health outcomes that are affected by social issues, economic and environmental factors that influence health; and on health behaviors, mental health and the quality of health care. We have also just completed a series of community discussions (focus groups) to learn about the concerns and ideas of community members in regards to these health topics, especially those who might have unique perspectives and experiences.

After the data are collected, a series of We are also planning a series of community meetings is this summer to present information on what we have learned. These meetings will allow community members can react to the information, help us prioritize the concerns that were identified and brainstorm new ideas for addressing them. This is where a health assessment gets really fun and creative! We’ve seen a lot of good come from dialogues like this in the past, whether it is new funding for access to health care, community gardens or new programs for youth. Your participation is key, so watch the Healthy! Capital Communities website for the date of a meeting near you.

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