Hospital leads long-term effort for healthier Concordia
With not quite nine months as CEO and president of Cloud County Health Center under his belt, Don Bates is taking the lead in a long-term plan to make Concordians healthier.
“We tackle these four,” he said of the priorities laid out in the multiagency Community Health Improvement Plan, “and then we tackle the next four. It isn’t going to be solved overnight, and it isn’t going to end.”
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His audience at Wednesday’s “working lunch” at the Nazareth Motherhouse was interested in the information, but concerned about getting it to the people who need it most.
“That’s always the challenge,” said Tina Walsh, director of the Community Resource Council. “How do we get this education out beyond this room?”
Bates gave credit to the committee that began work on the Cloud County Health Needs Assessment before he went to work at the hospital. “They laid the groundwork,” he said of the medical professionals and staff at the hospital, Cloud County Health Department and other agencies who began work in late 2012 to create the Community Health Improvement Plan.
The plan sets out four priorities for improving the overall health of Cloud County residents:
- Lower the percentage of children who are overweight. The assessment does not have a current percentage available for overweight children, but the percentage for overweight adults in Cloud County (37 percent) is significantly higher than the national number (25 percent)
- Lower the percentage of adults who smoke, with a special focus on pregnant women. The assessment reports that 17.7 percent of Cloud County adults smoke, compared to 12 percent nationwide.
- Lower the percentage of adults with high cholesterol levels. The Cloud County number is 42.5 percent, while nationwide the “Healthy People 2020” project has a goal of 13,5 percent.
- Lower the percentage of adults with hypertension or high blood pressure. In this category, Cloud County adults are actually doing better than the national Healthy People goal — 32.4 percent compared to 26.9 percent. But the committee set it as a priority because hypertension is often linked to other factors such as obesity and smoking.
Bates also outlined “strategies” for addressing each priority, with a heavy emphasis on public information and education. And, he added, the hospital is making some changes that he hopes will “impress on staff and visitors the value of healthy habits.”
Those include removing soda and candy from hospital vending machines and creating a small walking path on the hospital grounds for employees. He also announced that “within the next year” the entire hospital grounds will be smoke- and tobacco-free.
In other business at this 26th gathering of the Community Needs Forum, Holly Brown gave an update on this year’s National Night Out, scheduled for Aug. 5.
This is the fourth year for the communitywide event, sponsored by the Concordia Year of Peace Committee and the Concordia Police Department, in which neighborhoods are encouraged to come together for block parties, cookouts, ice cream socials or other gatherings.
Residents in neighborhoods across the city are encouraged to organize events, and then register their gatherings with Brown (by calling her at 785/243-2113, ext 1223, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org). Registered parties will receive a yard sign and balloons to help mark the location, and Concordia Police officers will visit each gathering to hand out glow necklaces and answer questions about neighborhood safety.
The Community Needs Forum grew out of informal meetings between the Sisters of St. Joseph and community leaders in the fall of 2008. The first working lunch was held in January 2009, and the continuing gatherings have identified what participants see as the greatest needs in the community and have established smaller groups to seek solutions. The working lunches continue to provide an opportunity for updates on projects and a clearinghouse for new ideas.
The next working lunch is set for Wednesday, Oct. 22, at the Motherhouse. Everyone is invited to take part; you don’t have to have attended earlier lunches to join the process now.