Jul 23 2012

Voices of NACCHO: Local Partnerships for Healthier Communities

>>EDITOR'S NOTE: On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence.

NewPublicHealth was on the ground at the National Association of County and City Health Officials Annual 2012 conference, providing the latest conference news and in­-depth interviews with conference speakers, as well as local success stories and a glimpse into the Los Angeles public health scene. Coverage highlights included:

At the conference, we also spoke with attendees about how local health departments are forging innovative new partnerships across sectors and across communities to meet shared goals and leverage resources. We asked: What’s the most creative, outside-the-box partner you’ve engaged with from a sector beyond public health? What did they add to the conversation and your joint efforts? What successes have you achieved as a result of partnerships? Who do you see as the most critical partners for public health?

A sampling of responses we heard from attendees are recapped below. Themes that emerged included the critical nature of partnerships between health departments and hospitals, Community Health Assessments and Improvement Plans as a catalyst for partnerships and sustained community health changes, and diverse partnerships across the community that each bring something valuable to the table.

“We started using the MAPP [Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships] process from NACCHO in 2008. And that got us over 72 partners at the table, and individuals from over 60 organizations. And through those partnerships we were able to gather local data from our hospital, from our behavioral health services and compile a Community Health Assessment (CHA). Not long after that we were able to use that data and develop a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). We’ve been so excited at the successes that we’ve already had in implementing quite a few policy systems and environmental changes to improve our dental health in our schools, and to pass a smoking ordinance in our county—our schools have been such a great partner. We have over ten different schools and they have all implemented a physical activity policy, where they’re integrating ten minutes of physical activity every single day, so fifty minutes a week.

We’ve also had partners from utility companies, our newspaper, our hospital, of course. Our library is a big part of our MAPP partnership. They have helped catalog our CHA and our CHIP so our community could access that more easily.

And we hope that all continues.” – Judy Mattingly, Franklin County Health Department in Frankfurt, Ky.

[On progress made since NewPublicHealth profiled the Tyler, Texas Fit City Challenge at NACCHO 2011] “We’re getting really to roll out two new initiatives in the fall. Lighten Up East Texas is a regional weight loss challenge. But it’s becoming regional in the communities outside of Tyler that are wanting to be part of it. That’s for adults and is a weight loss thing. For the kids, we wanted to launch something else. So through the schools and our nutritionists and group that want to work with kids, we’ve got a Fit City 5-2-1-0. It’s based on the idea that you have five fruits and vegetable servings a day, two hours or less of screen time, one hour of exercise and zero sugar-sweetened drinks. And if the kids will do that, they’re going to be healthier, so that’s the goal. Public schools have gotten involved and we’re trying to get private schools and any other groups that deal with kids to be part of that.

We’ve had a really strong partnership with our city. The county has gotten involved; the chamber of commerce has gotten really involved, but this year for the first time we’re starting to see the public schools are wanting to be part of it. We’ve got members of the public school community on our steering committee, but they’re going back and kind of building this momentum within the schools that’s going to tie them to the effort a little bit better. We’ve got some community groups outside of town who want to know how they can start up their own Fit City groups and work with us.” – Dave Berry, Editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Tyler, Tx.

“Our rather non-traditional partnership is with managed care. We work closely with Florida Blue, which is Blue Cross Shield of Florida. They have a foundation and they fund a number of our projects, including childhood obesity prevention and other areas. That allows us to do a lot of projects, especially in the chronic disease prevention area. We have many other partnerships, of course with hospitals, which is not so different from other health departments. But especially around health IT, we’re partnering with the hospitals to create a regional health information exchange and are also working with the medical society in a big way on that project.” – Dr. Bob Harman, director of the Duval County Health Department in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Our health department, Cobb and Douglas Public Health, is preparing for accreditation and as part of that we’ve prepared our three prerequisites—the Community Health Assessment (CHA), the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) and the strategic plan. In wrapping up the CHA and CHIP portions, we’ve relied on our partners a great deal. We’ve engaged all of the stakeholders in our communities in Cobb and Douglas and they’ve really added to our stability for the project because without them we wouldn’t be able to carry on our work and we’ve found that there’s certain services that they can provide and help the health department to better link and provide access for care to individuals in the community.

Faith-based organizations have also been incredibly helpful because we’ve noticed community members will open up more. For instance, in our focus groups that’s where we can give a lot of our data and then also identify improvement plans. When it comes down to implementing healthy living and our access to care, they’re much more likely to trust people within their organizations, including faith-based organizations.

We understand that public health professionals are incredibly stressed and constantly doing more with less in these days of dwindling resources. And so we have highlighted a couple of our successes through our partnerships—we were able to seek care funding for a Community Transformation Grant, and increased other grant and funding opportunities that will help us sustain and expand our services. This wouldn’t have been possible without our health department director’s vision and foresight and then the support of our local boards of health for Cobb and Douglas.” – Cobb and Douglas Public Health official, Georgia

“I’m a project manager with Sedgewick County Health Department in Wichita, Kansas. My program is called the Community Health Navigator Program and it was created in response to access to the Affordable Care Act. There are approximately 67,000 of our population under the age of sixty-five who are without insurance, currently. And that’s up from about 11.9 percent when I first started. My community health navigators are volunteers who take access to affordable health care information to the community. They share with the population where our clinics are located, what services they provide, if they’ll take you with or without health insurance, provide health and dental. We have a coalition of community health clinics; I think we have three federally qualified health clinics in the community.”

There was a community gathering because of the high rates of the un- and under-insured. It was a great collaboration of academia, private business, public institutions---they all came together to investigate the problem and look at it. They came up with three emerging issues. One was system navigation, system coordination and coverage. They figured that we needed to have a way to reach out to the population and educate them, and so the community health navigator group was created. So we take people who look like the population that they’re going to. So I have African, African American, Caucasian, Mexican, Vietnamese and Filipino navigators.  I’ve recruited about fifty-two navigators. They take turns being active volunteering their time because some are full time employees in their occupation and then others are entrepreneurs, and we have a pastor and a preacher. So it’s a wonderful, eclectic group.

We have one young lady who is Vietnamese, and she goes to the Buddhist temple to share this information. We have people who work for the city of Wichita environmental services. The social workers work in Kansas Children Service League and another one works at Behavioral Interventions, that’s the place that really helps people with their re-entry into society out of prison. So they’re all over the place. They could be in a restaurant sharing with business owners who are uninsured.  I made a presentation one time for the owner, her wait staff and her cook staff and her cleaning crew. They were all in this presentation and they all needed it, including the woman who owned the business. It’s an area that pulls the best out of everyone. And if I’m presenting to someone, I’m presenting to someone who looks like me and it makes that person comfortable. They think you can relate to them. And they’re better able to comprehend what you’re saying. I wouldn’t say “diabetes” to someone that I’m absolutely sure has used “sugar” instead. “My sugar is high” or “I have the sugar.” So I’m going to speak that language and so it makes us culturally literate.

When we did a community assessment, there were health disparities in each of these areas---oral health, access to affordable health care, mental health, obesity and diabetes---these are things that citizens were concerned with.  And so as we determine what they are concerned with and where they go and with whom they shop or talk, then we pull our partners there like that. It’s interesting. So far we’ve reached a little over 5,200 since 2009.” – Pamaline King-Burns, Sedgewick County Health Department

Tags: Community Benefit, NACCHO, Partnerships, Public Health Departments, Public and Community Health