County health organizations discuss improvement plan

Local county health officials met Friday at Mercy Memorial Hospital to discuss the Champaign County Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) and how their collaborative efforts will address the county’s health needs in the future.

Representatives from the hospital, Champaign County Health District, Champaign Family YMCA and Champaign County Drug Free Youth Coalition spoke on health needs for the county.

Champaign Family YMCA CEO Paul Waldsmith said the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports county health rankings state-by-state across the country. Waldsmith said the county-by-county health rankings are based on numerous health variables.

In 2012, Waldsmith said Champaign County county ranked as the 46th healthiest county out of 88 counties in the state. In 2015, Champaign County’s health ranking moved up to 35th in the state.

“A question is: why and how and can we understand statistically and behaviorally what causes and effects factored into that improvement,” Waldsmith asked. “Did we get better, did 87 other counties get worse?”

Waldsmith said when the Champaign County Health District and Mercy Memorial Hospital went through county health assessment surveys in early 2015 they were informed of how the county’s health ranking jumped.

“Why can’t we strive to have the healthiest county in the state to live and work in,” Waldsmith said. “Accepting the fact that we don’t have the wealth in Champaign County as we have in Delaware County or other places, we can still work together and still try to look at what areas need to be addressed, how to address them in a very systematic manner, how to actually pull our resources together so that we can become the healthiest place possible accepting the fact that the more we share resources the more we share ideas the better off we’re going to be.”

Waldsmith said the four areas of focus of the community health improvement plan are early childhood wellness, substance abuse, mental health and healthy living.

While a lot of work has been done in those areas, Waldsmith said in the last two years the respective organizations have tried to bring groups together to coordinate efforts towards these areas.

Champaign County Drug Free Youth Coalition Director Stacey Logwood said this is being done through collective impact which is a framework for thinking about how to de-silo work groups. Working on the previous community health improvement plan Logwood said outside of annual or bi-annual meetings there was no infrastructure for different organizations to know what other organizations were doing except for when there was a mutual participant in multiple organizations.

“Locally we have housed all of the outcome reporting through two sources: the health district’s CHIP meetings and CHIP process and then also the Family and Children First Council,” Logwood said. “The Family and Children First Council was selected because that’s where that key group of stakeholders is who have the ability across systems to make some of those decisions. What we were lacking at Family and Children First was the business and the health community that Paul and (Mercy Memorial Hospital Administrator) Kim (Jerger) bring so when we bring all of that back up through the health district then we have the perfect storm of all the social service and educational partners plus the health and business community that they have access to.”

Jerger said collaborating with the respective entities brings a different aspect of community healthcare to the table allowing for the entities to meet their respective needs while still working towards a collective goal.

“It’s really nice to bring all these parties together to have a synthesized or standardized approach to have all the support across all of those services,” Jerger said. “I think it really makes us unique because one nice thing about this community and this county is there’s not a lot of (similar) services so we’re able to target each of our areas as a specialty and then bring that all together collectively where some of the bigger counties you’ve got multiple services and there could be four groups like Stacey’s, one health department but then a bunch of different hospital systems.”

Waldsmith said while the groups will continue to function individually, the collaborative is trying to leverage the strengths and progress made in each area while sharing resources.

As the respective groups are working together more, Logwood said trends they are noticing include workplace issues related to drugs, alcohol and healthy living and compounded mental health trauma that goes unaddressed.

Friday’s meeting between group leaders also served as an opportunity for them to plan for an upcoming meeting with local manufacturing human resource personnel.

“How do we help individuals adopt healthier lifestyle practices, how do we do the same thing at the company level, what are those policies we can help places implement,” Waldsmith said.

By Nick Walton

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.