County health plan focuses on subpopulations/local involvement

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After about 18 months, the Riverside County Department of Public Health has released its Community Health Improvement Plan. The work began among professionals and interest groups within the county in 2009. Last year, in 2015, communities and citizens began to be polled about their needs and priorities through a series of community meetings, including one in Idyllwild. By the summer of 2015, preliminary work was discussed in larger forums throughout the county.

In October 2016, Public Health completed CHIP, which addresses four priority areas — creating healthy communities, promoting healthy behaviors, connecting and investing in people, and improving access to care.

One of the purposes of developing the plan was to create more cooperation among the various health care partners and communities in the county. Partners include advocacy groups such as the American Heart Association, academic institutions such as the University of California, Riverside, School of Public Policy, insurers and cities.

The plan also represents a commitment to advancing health equity through the county. The intent will be distribution of opportunities and resources so that all county residents have the chance to achieve their optimal health.

The initial steps reviewed and compared national and statewide data with results and the conditions within Riverside County. In general, Riverside County’s health fares compared rather poorly to other counties in California. The County Health Rankings puts Riverside County in 29th place out of 57 counties in the state for health outcomes and 39th for health factors, according to the plan.

However, an assessment of the county’s health shows that real health disparities exist between different populations in the county. These findings led to the identification of the four priority areas.

Each priority area has three to four objectives, which define specific actions the county or individuals might take to improve health. These are strategies to create improvements in Riverside County. Five area targets have been established and will be the measure of success.

For example, the first objective in the Promoting Healthy Behaviors priority aims to reduce adult and childhood obesity. Current county data indicate that 29.1 percent of adults are obese. The goal is 28.1 percent. Statewide, 27 percent of adults are considered obese, but 29.6 percent of adults nationwide are obese.

Similar targets have been set for seventh graders and teens.

The strategies include encouraging greater enrollment in food programs and greater use of farmers’ markets for fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, expanding awareness of physical activity through schools and community groups will be promoted in the media and on websites. Other strategies will promote diabetes management and prevention programs, workplace wellness programs, and healthy meals and afterschool programs for children.

The entire plan can be found on the Town Crier website at www.towncrier.com.

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