All of us want to live in a healthy community. We all want the things – a good education, a good job, wholesome food, safe places to recreate, access to medical care – that make us happy and healthy.
The twentieth century witnessed remarkable improvements in health. Improved sanitation, improved control of infectious diseases, a decrease in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, and access to increasingly sophisticated health care services have all contributed to longer human lifespans. Today, despite past progress, we continue to face significant health challenges as a society. There has been a sharp rise in the prevalence of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke), cancer and diabetes. In almost every corner of the United States, obesity is on the rise, due in large part to alarming trends in patterns of physical activity and nutrition. Douglas County is not immune to these trends.
Wanting to better understand the specific challenges in our community, in 2011 a community-wide initiative was spearheaded by seven area organizations, whose representatives served on the project Steering Committee, to engage the community in identifying ways to improve the health of Douglas County residents. The first step of the initiative was a community health assessment to create a deeper understanding of important community health issues, the community’s key health priorities, and community resources to address these priorities. From December 2011 through June 2012, members of the community were engaged in this assessment to identify issues impacting the health of Douglas County residents.
Multiple methods were used to gather information, with a goal of optimizing opportunities to hear from diverse voices across the community, including typically underrepresented voices. Overall, more than 1,500 people participated in the community health assessment of Douglas County. To identify those issues that reflect the priorities of Douglas County residents, findings for each of the methods used in the community health assessment were examined to identify common themes. Thirteen community issues were identified through multiple methods used in the assessment. A series of community health forums were convened in May 2012 to provide input on the results by identifying root causes of identified issues.
Recognizing the need to focus on a manageable set of issues, community leaders were invited to participate in priority-setting, with the goal of selecting issues that would become the primary focus of the community health plan. Through this process, a set of five “priority issues” were chosen to become part of this plan:
Access to healthy foods
Access to health services
Poverty and jobs
Once these priority issues were chosen, residents, community leaders and experts were assembled as five work groups to develop specific goals, objectives and strategies around the five issues. Their recommendations were used as the basis for developing this Community Health Plan. Their recommendations are meant to identify opportunities for action that can help affect the health and well-being of Douglas County residents.
A plan itself will not create lasting change in the community, but even in developing a plan we believe we have planted seeds of change. Through the process of creating the plan we’ve begun a community dialogue designed to:
Create a shared vision for a healthier Douglas County,
Adopt ways to measure and report progress,
and Promote collaboration among key stakeholders to create meaningful change.
A broad array of community partners met between September 2012 and April 2013 to develop the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Plan. The Community Health Assessment and Planning Steering Committee worked to develop a vision and mission to guide the overall plan, while work groups dedicated to each of the five priority issues developed goals, objectives, strategies, and opportunities for community action for each of the issues.
The vision - our dream for our community - of the overall plan is “a healthier Douglas County.” The vision articulated for the Lawrence Douglas County Community Health Plan reminds us to consider the definition of health provided by the World Health Organization: “health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
The mission of the overall plan is “to collectively improve health for all through environmental and policy change that is responsive and accountable to the community.”
Many things influence our health including who we are (our sex, age, genes, etc.), how we behave (eat, exercise, smoke, etc.) and where and how we live, work and play. The focus of this plan is how we can affect change at the environmental and policy level so that we can influence the health of the entire community. Environmental interventions involve physical or material change to the social, economic or physical environment. Incorporating sidewalks, parks, and other recreation facilities into community design is an example of an environmental intervention. Policy interventions are usually changes in rules or laws (governmental or organizational) to promote a desired outcome. An example of a policy change would be the adoption by an organization of policies regarding nutrition standards in food services (for example, a company adopting a policy requiring that only healthy foods will be available in vending machines on company property).
View the 2013-2018 Community Health Plan