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Moving the meter

by Geddy Sveikauskas
May 12, 2011 03:07 PM | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Now that the events of Healthy Ulster Week 2011 are coming to a close, the organization of a strategic direction to achieve its objectives are about to resume. The four committees formed at the first annual county health summit last March, dubbed Partners in Public Health Planning Councils and, have been tasked to come up with draft recommendations of best practices by the time of the second summit now scheduled for July (no specific date has yet been publicly announced). This is what’s been happening, according to the minutes of its meetings, in one of the Partners in Public Health Councils, the “healthy women track.”

The purpose of the Partners in Public Health Planning Councils (PiPHs) is “to maintain a link of a core group of individuals and organizations that will assist the county with assessment, planning and strategic direction for health initiatives with the overall goal of transforming Ulster County into the healthiest county in New York State.” It was expected the four “tracks” (the other three foci are healthy youth, healthy seniors and healthy places) would probably meet quarterly.

The Healthy Ulster process does not expect to achieve results overnight. “This is a multi-year plan,” explained Vin Martello, coordinating the PIPHs for the Ulster County health department. “This is not a race, it’s a long process. The issues we are tackling are very complex and are influenced by many factors.”

At a meeting last August 5, the women’s planning council selected nine “priority indicators” of varying importance and degrees of difficulty. The starting report card for these nine was in the middle of the state’s county averages. The grades on that report card included two Bs, four Cs, a D and two Fs. There was work to be done.

Ulster County got a grade of D for the breast cancer rates among its women and a C+ for its rate of coronary heart disease. Stroke deaths earned a B grade. For maternal child health, measured by the number of infant deaths in the first year of life, Ulster County was given an F grade.

For childhood obesity (percentage of overweight or obese) Ulster had an F. The county earned a C grade for its percentage of obese adults. For cigarette smoking adults the county earned a C- grade, and for tobacco use among adolescents a B+. Finally, for access, measured by percentage of adults with regular primary care, the county scored a C grade on its report card.

Making better choices

At its March 2011 meeting the PiPH heard from Stacey Rein of United Way about service coordination among agencies. As part of an effort to facilitate interagency relationships, information for a build-your-Web spreadsheet was solicited. “Agencies should augment each other’s efforts,” said women’s PiPH chair Caren Fairweather.

The group has selected three health priority areas upon which to concentrate its efforts: breast cancer, maternal child health and obesity. Subcommittees were organized for all three to research and recommend best practices. The next step will be to develop with partners a task list and action steps. Finally, progress will be tracked and data collected to evaluate success.

“We’re focusing on where our interventions could lead to the healthiest population,” explained Fairweather. “It’s not just changing lifestyles. We’re trying to empower women to make better choices. It requires sustained efforts, we shouldn’t let up on these things.”

A scheduled May 4 meeting was postponed. The women’s PiPH intends to meet prior to the July 13 summit scheduled for July 13 in the student lounge at Vanderlyn Hall at UCCC in stone Ridge. The event will run from 9:30 to noon, and Martello says the four PIPHs will report on their progress. The public is invited.

Martello thinks the women’s PIPH group is doing very well, especially considering it is composed of a group of very busy civilian volunteers. “The important thing is we’ve got people engaged,” he said. “The important first step is moving the meter in the right direction.”++

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