08/25/13 — County makes new plan for health

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County makes new plan for health

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 25, 2013 1:50 AM

An organization's strategic plan is like a road map, a way to set goals and focus on areas that can be improved upon, says Wayne County Health Director Davin Madden.

The county Board of Health recently approved its plan, which will be in effect through 2016.

"I like to do a three-year strategic plan because the landscape changes so rapidly," Madden explained.

On the heels of last year's Community Health Needs Assessment, Madden also cited data from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, in which Wayne County ranked 64th out of the 100 counties in the state in health outcomes. North Carolina ranked 33rd in the country.

The local strategic plan was created over the past several months by a team of department managers at the Health Department and centers around a short list of goals to improve the county's overall health. Among the goals are to develop and retain a highly qualified workforce, restructure the health education program and address concerns about rates of chronic disease, sexually transmitted diseases and infant mortality.

Recruiting and training high-quality people is "critical," Madden said, and will hold true throughout the department.

"One of our goals on how to improve (that) is to look at activities for revamping the health education division in our Health Department," he said. "Health education has been for a long time one of the critical tools of public health to get people aware of how to improve their health, how to be safe in the environment."

The effort is not a reflection on past or present staff, Madden said, but rather a way to be more effective in getting the message out to the public.

"We're trying to get ourselves more visible and prioritize the health focus. When we have limited resources and have to prioritize where to go, we're talking about getting community partners, churches and leaders."

One idea that has been discussed is to develop a community education plan to address teen sex education, he said.

"Right now, we have several teen pregnancy groups out there. And we all have community representatives there, but my thing is, how do we turn these individual groups that are working together into a force. They're not just doing their thing, they're working hand-in-hand, they're working in tandem. Wayne County does that well but it's not going to happen overnight."

The educational component also holds true in other areas, such as chronic diseases, which include hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.

"We want to be more conscious. We're looking at continuing to do that with preventive programs," Madden said, adding that prostate cancer is another area of concern that should be added to the list. "We're always looking at lung cancer and breast cancer. It's not to say one is more important that another."

The high rate of STDs, while uncomfortable for some people to discuss, is also a major public health issue, he said.

"We can't turn our heads away from that," the health director said. "It's embarrassing, but until we become honest with ourselves as a community and look to improve it, we're not going to solve our problem.

"We have got to work together as a health department, hospital and other providers, to make sure they have the right information and the right protection. The way you deal with a problem is you recognize it, you identify it, and you work on ways to address it."

Madden said that he also hopes to decrease the infant mortality rate, which can be "indicative of the health of the county."

"We have to pat ourselves on the back," he said. "This is a great community but we have our challenges. We have a great opportunity. We have got potential but we haven't tapped it yet.

"We're going to address obesity, through GoWayneGo (initiative to promote healthy behaviors and exercise), education to our pregnant mothers to not smoke, education in drug use during pregnancy, trying to lower infant mortality rates, get women in early pregnancy care."

The strategic plan is just one way to target areas of concern and direct efforts there, he said.

"Now that we have approved it, it doesn't go on the shelf and collect dust. We will be looking at it continuously and making sure we're going through the checklist. Self-evaluation is one of the abilities of any organization. We're taking time to stop and ask, where did we succeed, where did we fail?"