The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

June 22, 2012

Listening session: Health department seeks public input

ENID — Garfield County Health Department is rallying the support of local civic groups, social service and nonprofit organizations to improve community health, and they’re looking for public input to guide their efforts.

The health department has scheduled a listening session for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Cherokee Strip Conference Center. During the listening session, officials from the health department and other city and county government and civic organizations will guide public discussion and solicit public input on ways to improve the health of Garfield County’s communities.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is to build a local public health improvement plan,” said Teresa Bailey, RN, Garfield County Health Department accreditation coordinator. “We know what the statistics show, but we’re trying to get the community’s idea of what a healthier Garfield County looks like.”

Those statistics don’t look very good for Oklahoma in general, or Garfield County in particular. The county ranks 26th out of 77 counties in overall health rankings, and the state currently is ranked 48th out of the 50 states.

Pat Fowler, regional health consultant for Garfield, Grant, Major and Alfalfa counties, said the path to a healthier county lies in building a coalition of local health and civic service organizations, and determining what the people want to see in a healthier community.

“We want to get input and ideas from the community as to what is their perception of a healthier community, and what that would look like,” Fowler said. “And, that could be anything from more access to health care to infrastructure like parks, health and fitness centers and walking trails.”

Fowler said it is likely many of the public health improvement recommendations, like more parks and access to fresh produce, will be “beyond our scope as a health department.”

That’s why the health department has been working for the last four months to build a coalition of community health and social service organizations, along with local and county government officials.

The coalition, Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership (MAPP), now has enlisted more than 20 community partners.

MaryJac Rauh, administrative programs officer for Garfield County Health Department, said the MAPP partners will take public input, paired with extensive community assessments, and use the data to implement changes in the county.

She said the MAPP process, from public input to strategic planning and implementation, is a state and national initiative guided by National Association of City and County Health Officials.

“We have a lot of help with the assessments we’re going to have to do, and we’re not going to have to reinvent the wheel,” Rauh said. “And, once we have the community’s input, we’re going to have the support from the state level to actively implement the recommendations.”

Fowler said the health de-partment and MAPP community partners are committed to implementing public recommendations, but it all starts with “hearing what the people want to see.”

“We want to take it as far as we can,” Fowler said. “Once we have people’s input and hear what they have to say, we’ll go to the next step and see what we can do. We want to be serious about implementation, and we’re going to follow through on this.”

Fowler said the health department will be facilitating and coordinating efforts through MAPP for initiatives outside the health department’s purview.

“We’re going to get input from the citizens that will give us an idea of how we move forward with this process, and then we will present the findings to city and county officials,” Fowler said.

Tuesday’s listening session is open to the public, and will take place beginning at 6 p.m. at Cherokee Strip Conference Center, 123 W. Maine in Enid.

Public recommendations to improve community health also can be submitted on the Garfield MAPP Facebook page.

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