ELYRIA — A five-year plan to help more Lorain County residents find primary health care doctors, lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking and seek needed mental health services is in the works in a collaboration including nine of the county’s largest health care providers and agencies.
The organizations have come up with targeted objectives to raise the overall health of county residents in response to a 2011 assessment, which showed that while many Lorain County residents perceived themselves to be healthy, a lot of work still needed to be done.
The results of the 2011 health assessment did not come as a surprise to those on the front lines of mental and medical health in the county and gave the nine partner agencies — Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Lorain County, Elyria City Health District, Lorain City Health Department, Lorain County Board of Mental Health, Lorain County General Health District, Lorain County Health and Dentistry, Lorain County Metro Parks, Mercy Regional Medical Center and Mercy Allen Hospital and University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center — the data needed to craft a comprehensive improvement plan.
Dave Covell, health commissioner at the Lorain County General Health District, said the plan addresses ways to efficiently and effectively manage chronic disease prevention and will be funded in a collaborative way, although there will not be one dedicated pool of money.
“All of the people involved already have funding sources …” he said. “This plan connects the dots so we can have a better effect on the community with the money we have.”
Unveiled Thursday at Lorain County Community College, the plan is comprised of five overarching goals and eight objectives. Access to care is the No. 1 priority.
“Primary care physicians are key partners in our community’s health,” said Ed Oley, CEO and president of Mercy Regional Medical Center. “They guide their patients in their health decisions and help coordinate their care, critical components to help the community lead healthier lives.”
According to the 2011 assessment, 16 percent of adults do not have a doctor to see on a routine basis, equating to nearly 37,000 people in Lorain County.
Those who are insured and have a regular physician may wonder why the community improvement plan is beneficial to the entire county. The health care system is the one facet of daily life that affects everyone, partners in the effort say.
“Hospitals were traditionally rewarded for treating disease,” said Dr. Don Sheldon, president of UH Elyria Medical Center. “The more sick people, the better a hospital would do. But there is a shift now, not on treating disease but on keeping people well longer.
There are plenty of resources out there, and we are learning it’s far cheaper to keep people well than it is to treat people once they are sick.”
Other goals include expanding coordinated education and prevention services, improving control of weight and obesity, reducing alcohol consumption or use, tobacco and drug use/abuse and improving mental health services.
“The value of this plan is that all partners are committing to leverage their expertise together to positively impact key health issues in Lorain County,” said Elaine Georgas, executive director of the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Lorain County.
Working on the plan until 2019 — the target date for most improvement measures, aside from reducing the number of heroin and opiate overdose deaths, which is a goal for 2017 — will take on many forms in the community.
Local hospitals pledge to expand the number of primary care physicians in the community.
The Lorain County Metro Parks will focus on community access as it looks to how its facilities and parks should expand. Lorain County health care professionals will offer wraparound services to vulnerable mothers who don’t know the dangers of sleeping with their children.
“We are trying to raise awareness,” said Kathy Boylan, health commissioner for both the Elyria and Lorain city health departments, which are working to reduce the infant mortality rate in Lorain County. “We can’t just say that it is a terrible statistic and turn the page. We all have to do everything we can.”
The 2014 Lorain County Community Health Improvement Plan
- Improve access to care
- Expand coordinated education, prevention services
- Control weight and obesity
- Reduce alcohol, tobacco and drug use/abuse
- Improve mental health