Health Forum planned for Jan. 17

Jan. 16, 2013 @ 08:00 AM

How healthy are the residents of Polk County? What programs are needed to improve the health and wellness of Polk County for individuals and families, as well as for business and industry? What are the barriers? Strengths and weaknesses?

Kick off the New Year by participating in a community wide discussion of health priorities and issues that will make a healthier Polk County for individuals, families, businesses and industries.

The public is invited to attend a Community Health Forum set for Thursday, Jan. 17, at Isothermal Community College-Polk Campus from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Co-sponsored by St. Luke’s Hospital and Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Heath District, the forum will begin with a presentation of health data and local opinion surveys collected and compiled to assess the current health of Polk County. Breakout sessions will help St. Luke’s Hospital and the health district plan and create programs to address future needs for the health, well-being and economy of Polk County.

Community input is a necessary and integral aspect of federally required community health assessments, according to Ken Shull, chief executive officer for St. Luke’s Hospital.

“We began this process a year ago to determine how we can best work together towards the same goal. Hospitals and health departments representing 16 counties in Western North Carolina decided to collaborate on a community health assessment, Shull said.

Known as WNC Healthy Impact, this innovative regional partnership allowed efficiencies in compiling health data and provided localized telephone surveys to determine the health, attitudes and needs of each county. Hospitals and health departments are required to perform a community health assessment at least every two years, so this will be the third event hosted in Polk County over the past six years, Shull said.

Following a presentation of data, attendees will be asked to participate in one of four breakout sessions to brainstorm strategies and interventions to address major health issues. According to current, local data Polk County is challenged with the following health problems: chronic diseases (high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol); healthy eating and active living; substance abuse and tobacco; and economy and health.

These breakout discussions will be lead by members of Polk Fit, Fresh & Friendly (PF3), a local coalition of volunteers who collaborate on health issues and strategies, including advocacy.

Following community health assessments and public input, health providers will develop community health improvement plans (CHIP) to meet federal requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Internal Revenue Service. The health assessment and the resulting CHIP encourage collaboration among health providers and align investments that will improve the health of each community.

To join the community forum this Thursday, please call 828-894-2408 to register. The program is free of charge and a light meal will be available.