By Joyce Marie Taylor
Hamilton County Health Department Administrator Mark Lander offered a presentation to the Board of County Commissioners on a community health improvement plan at their meeting on Tuesday, July 16.
“Part of our Hamilton County steering committee for health is a project that has been going on for about two and a half or three years, with steering committee meetings looking at health issues within Hamilton County and ways to address those issues,” said Lander. “More specifically, what we can do to ensure that we get on the right path with the future of health in our county.”
Lander said that was the impetus for the creation of the Community Health Improvement Plan, which is a compilation of many different organizations, including faith-based organizations, the Department of Agriculture, law enforcement and the county coordinator who make up the steering committee. Lander said they have all sat in on steering committee meetings over the years, examining collected data from the WellFlorida Council.
WellFlorida Council, Inc. is the state designated local health council for North Central Florida and specializes in health consultancy for clients and projects throughout the state. Their work results in shared solutions, an informed public and focused programs for healthier communities.
Lander gave each of the commissioners a 17-page summary plan that was taken from a 129-page technical document and a 33-page community health assessment that was done previously.
“It’s our roadmap of where we are going to proceed for the next two to three years, as far as the steering committee and what we’re going to be looking at,” said Lander.
Lander said the plan summary, along with the technical documents should be posted on the health department’s website by Aug. 1. He also said he would like to have their website linked to the county’s website, as it is a community health plan and not a health department plan.
Seven key community health improvement activities have been identified that focus on things such as obesity and disease prevention, as well as opening up communications within the county as far as health providers and other organizations, Lander explained.
They came up with specific goals and measurable objectives that are outlined in the summary.
This is not a plan that’s going to collect dust on a shelf,” said Lander. “It’s a plan that we’re constantly going to be evaluating. It could even change up. It’s very dynamic.”
Another community health assessment will be done at the end of 2014, Lander said, so other items may be added to the plan. The health department, he added, will be regularly reporting to the county commissioners and the public on key health issues.
“A lot of times individuals (our public) don’t even understand what the health department can or cannot do for them,” said Lander. “That’s where we feel we’ve been lacking. We feel like we need to do a better job of educating, and meet with the steering committee who’s willing to work along with us doing that job.”
Lander said there have been instances where the health department was not aware of a health fair being held in the county and also the public wasn’t aware of a health fair they were sponsoring.
“We’re going to be addressing that,” he said.
They will also be concentrating on physical education for the children and working with the school system, as well as educating people on food habits, smoking cessation and reducing alcohol consumption.
“All those can lead to a healthier lifestyle and lead to better health, and reduce healthcare costs in the future,” said Lander.
Another goal is to let the public know about existing low or no cost opportunities for physical activities in the county, such as walking trails that are not necessarily along the river, which some people are unable to do. The health department will also be providing information on better healthcare options.
“The county has already taken the first step by bringing in the rural health clinic,” he said. “It’s going to be amazing what it will do for this community when it opens up. Our health department can work hand-in-hand coordinating with them on certain services, making sure we don’t duplicate services.”
Lander said he wants the public to be aware of what is available in the county, so they don’t feel like they have to drive to Lake City for emergency care when a local doctor’s office can handle the situation.
“We’re going to do a better job of educating the public on the use of our healthcare system,” Lander said.
Lander also thanked the commissioners for the work that was done on the re-roofing project at the health department.