Mesa County plans for improvement by 2017

The Mesa County Health Department hopes to work with local health and wellness services over the next few years to improve the health of Mesa County residents, according to a new health improvement plan.

Eighteen months ago, the Health Department compared dozens of local health statistics with health outcomes statewide. The county performed worse than the state on about 35 health factors, according to Mesa County Health Department Executive Director Jeff Kuhr.

A steering committee of employees from local hospitals, the Health Department and health service agencies narrowed the list of county shortfalls to six pressing health problems in the community. Focus groups helped further narrow the list to three public health priorities: decreasing the rates of unintended pregnancy, obesity and suicide in the county. To learn more about how to tackle those three issues, the Health Department and its partners hosted three feedback summits, one on each topic.

Information from all of those sources helped the Health Department compile the 76-page “Healthy Mesa County 2012-2017” report and a Community Health Improvement Plan. The plan focuses on five potential root causes of some of Mesa County’s health struggles, including the three priority categories mentioned above. The health improvement plan sets out to address those issues by:

■ Improving child health by empowering parents;

■ Improving mental health by recognizing and addressing risk factors through coordinated messaging and monitoring among service agencies;

■ Increasing access and capacity of health care services;

■ Promoting a healthy lifestyle through advocacy for active transportation and walking routes; and

■ Encouraging the health community to coordinate roles and services to reach a common goal of healthy citizens.

Kuhr said the first step to working on these five areas will be to form work groups for each of the first four items. Those groups, called “action teams,” will have a membership similar to the steering committee. The groups will being meeting Thursday and will analyze demographic data, figure out where there are gaps or overlaps in service and try to coordinate efforts so agencies focus less on competition and more on filling coinciding roles, according to Kuhr. Through collaboration, grant-writing and getting the word out about services with a more consistent message, Kuhr said he hopes to make Mesa County healthier over the years.

“What I see is a change in culture,” Kuhr said. “My goal is in two years we’re still going strong with this effort. To me, success for the Health Department and the community will be a change in culture because we’ll be pursuing these collaboratives.”

The health plan includes goals to gather more comprehensive health data, improve health system coordination by creating a navigator program and have at least three out of five Mesa County residents be able to identify a health resource and a mental health resource, all by 2017. Kuhr said meeting those goals may help reduce the occurrence of some of the county’s most common health concerns.

“In a year we could ask people if they’re aware of an effort and I believe the likelihood is they’ll say yes,” he said. “It may not lead to an immediate behavior change but part of that change is making them aware of what’s available.”


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