Regional Health Survey Part of Statewide Plan
A Region 8 community meeting hosted by the Office of Public Health brought stakeholders together in learning about top priorities to improve health outcomes in northeast Louisiana.
Health care and insurance, economic development and employment, and behavioral or mental health and addictive disorders were cited by Department of Health and Hospital’s Regional Administrator Dr. Shelley Jones. She says the DHH is in the process of identifying strategies in developing a state health improvement plan. "It's not necessarily health as we know it, physical health, but all aspects, and how health impacts other sectors," she said.
Representatives from health care, education, and business discussed how the region is addressing critical areas. CathiCox-Boniol is Achieve Coordinator with Lincoln Parish Schools believes many problems crop up in the vast, rural area. "A number of people are so isolated, they don't have proper access to healthcare. In some cases, there is a lack of transportation," said Cox-Boniol.
From basic needs to specific services, the presentation took a comprehensive approach for those in the classroom and the workplace.
Amanda Whitten is Wellness Program Manager with CenturyLink. She notes more businesses are committed to learning and sharing health resources to support their employees. "I think a lot of the same issues are seen by more companies. Chronic disease and diabetes are some of the topics workers are seeking more resources from employers," says Whitten.
Improving health services and outcomes is a goal for a state that has consistently placed near last in health rankings. United Health Foundation 2014 report covering 30 health-related criteria placed Louisiana at number 48 in the nation.
Poor health outcomes can also have an economic impact. Dr. Larry Procter, a Grambling State University kinesiology professor, was part of a group presenting an analysis of behavioral and mental health. "The biggest threat in this is socio-economic status. It limits you in so many ways in our region, whether health, education, or recreation," he said.
The survey and creation of a statewide health improvement plan are part of accreditation for the Department of Health and Hospitals. A follow up meeting is scheduled for August, where final recommendations will be made. The statewide plan is expected to be complete this fall.