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Johnson and Hughes talk county health

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Frank Lewis


PDT Staff Writer


After the Regional Health Summit in October, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation contacted Ed Hughes, director of The Counseling Center and Medical Director Dr. Terry Johnson for a question and answer interview to be featured on their national website. The interview Q & A was posted Wednesday afternoon.


As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted solely to the public’s health, the RWJF says it has the unique capability and responsibility to confront the most pressing health and health care problems threatening society. Their efforts focus on improving both the health of everyone in America and their health care, namely how it’s delivered, how it’s paid for, and how well it does for patients and their families.


The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps show how every county in the United States ranks on critical measures that impact health in comparison to all the counties in a state. The program helps communities create solutions that make it easier for people to be healthy in their own communities, focusing on specific factors that affect health such as education and income.


“Now headed into its fourth year, the rankings are spurring communities to action. In Scioto County, Ohio, which was ranked last among all 88 Ohio counties last year, the rankings motivated community leaders to convene two recent meetings,” the RWJF blog ‘New Public Health’ said. “One held last spring gathered stakeholders at the table to set the agenda for helping to improve the county’s health. And a summit held this fall brought engaged county partners together with leaders from counties in both Ohio and Kentucky who shared ideas and initiatives that are already working to help improve health and lives.”


New Public Health asked the two what the 2012 County Health Rankings reveal for our region?


“We slipped this year from 87 to 88—last place. So, it became a rallying point for us as a community to be able to actually see those numbers and to understand what the rates for the measures mean,” Hughes said. “We probably knew about a lot of it, but didn’t have the information available in a comprehensive way, like the number of people who smoke in our region, the number of folks who are struggling with obesity and the percentage of children who do not have their immunizations. We were surprised that we were one of the most struggling counties in the country.”


Johnson said a visual representation of the numbers helped.


“We knew there was a lot of smoking and obesity, but to have those numbers so graphically illustrate the problem was really an impetus for us,” Johnson said. “When we decided to have our first health conference, it was a county affair, and we invited the state health commissioner to join us. In our area there is good medicine being practiced, but no coordinated effort to improve the health of the community. So our thought process was to bring folks together and challenge them to do things differently than we’ve done in the past. We had the initial summit, and then we realized that our problems aren’t just county-wide. If we try to address them on a single county basis, then we’re really addressing them in a vacuum—we needed to bring in our contiguous counties, including counties from urban Kentucky.”


Johnson said the desire to bring both states together spurred on the recent regional health summit, and the health director for the state of Ohio, Dr. Theodore E. Wymyslo, came back again.


“We had a pretty great experience,” Johnson said. “Our idea was to figure out ways to communicate and collaborate based upon the County Health Rankings numbers. We have a great deal in common and a great deal at stake together.”


That effort continues today when the Scioto County Health Coalition meets at 9 a.m. in room 215 at Shawnee State Unviersity. The meeting is open to the public. Today’s agenda includes:

  • 9-10 a.m.: All Hands Meeting
  • 10-11 a.m.: Wellness Committee
  • 11am-12 p.m.: Clinical Care Committee
  • 1-2 p.m.: Economic Development Committee
  • 2-2:30 p.m.: Code Enforcement Committee
  • 2:30-3:30 p.m.: Community Initiatives Committee
  • 3:30-4:30 p.m.: Rx Drug Action Team


Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@heartlandpublications.com

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