By JEFF MEYERS Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Substance abuse and public access to recreational activities ranked highest in priority during a planning session aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles in Clinton County.
Health-care providers and other community leaders met to look at where the county stands with its health-care needs and what the focus should be over the next several years.
“We have a large group of people here representing the diversity of our community,” said Jerie Reid, director of public health for the Clinton County Health Department as she opened the Strategic Community Planning Session at West Side Ballroom in Plattsburgh.
“This is what makes our organization and our community so great.”
Participants represented the needs of such community members as the elderly and the youth of Clinton County, she noted. There were also representatives from education, community recreation, home-health care, mental health and CVPH Medical Center, as well as elected officials.
The session was a continuation of a lengthy regional process in which community members and health-care representatives have joined forces to create strategies for improving health-care services.
The county has utilized Mobilizing for Action through Planning & Partnership (MAPP) since 2004 and is entering a new phase with current efforts to prioritize health-care needs.
‘LEARNED A LOT’
Rather than focusing on information provided by the Health Department and regional health-care facilities, Reid noted that this year’s efforts will feature input from other areas being represented at the conference.
“We’ve learned a lot (over the years),” she said. “Experience is a wonderful teacher. With a staff of 75, 80 individuals, we’ve talked about all kinds of things we have to do. But how on earth do we do that by ourselves?”
Laurie Williams, health-education coordinator for the Clinton County Health Department, provided a brief history of work done over the past decade to develop a community-wide health-care plan, including the 2005 Tri-County Regional Health Perspective, an expanded version of the original MAPP efforts, which included providers in Essex and Franklin counties.
“Did that strategy have an impact? Yes it did,” Williams said of the efforts placed on improving care for chronic disease and understanding the region’s changing population, a project taken on by the Office for the Aging.
The State Health Department played a vital role in assisting local and regional efforts, Williams added.
Also, the Clinton County Health Department is nearing completion of a national accreditation process, and that effort will include the MAPP process.
Vicky Wheaton-Saraceni, director of corporate planning and services for Adirondack Rural Health Institute, stressed the region’s efforts to address chronic disease and the need to continue that focus going into the future.
“Communities across the state can work together to improve the quality of health of all New Yorkers,” she said, adding that healthy policies lead to healthier environments, behaviors and people.
Individuals and communities need to address lifestyle issues such as smoking, diet and physical activity to improve the overall health of communities, she added.
Robert Martiniano, project director for the School of Public Health at the University at Albany, spoke of the importance of including a local slant to health-care trends, since the community will have a better understanding of why certain trends are prevalent within that community.
“Your groups can enrich the story,” he said of the participants as they prepared to separate into small working groups to discuss health-care priorities.
The small groups were charged with analyzing seven distinct areas in public health: what officials term “built environment,” or the availability of recreational opportunities such as bike and walking paths, parks and playgrounds; preventive care and management of chronic diseases; obesity in children and adults; substance abuse and mental health; preconception and reproductive health; tobacco use and second-hand smoking exposure; and vaccine-preventable diseases.
At the conclusion of the sessions, participants were asked to vote for their three top priorities from that list of seven focus areas.
Built environment and substance abuse received the most recognition with 31.5 and 31 votes, respectively.
Chronic disease finished third with 28 points, followed by 22.5 votes for obesity and six votes for preconception and reproductive health.
Tobacco use and vaccine-preventable diseases received no votes from the participants, but Williams suggested that those two areas were not prioritized because they already have well-established programs.
Officials will develop a focus plan over the next several months that will highlight strategies to promote the top two areas during the upcoming five-year MAPP phase.
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