Written by Andrew Whitacre, NACo Health Associate.
The National Association of Counties (NACo), in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) is conducting community dialogues in six counties across the country. The NACo Community Dialogue to Improve County Health sessions are intended to assist counties in assessing, planning, and strategizing current efforts toward coordinating health initiatives to improve the overall health of residents in these counties. These sessions are a part of NACo’s Elected County Officials’ Guide to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps project which aims to bring together public and private partners to share innovative ideas and strategize about how to resolve various challenges counties face. The first of these sessions was held in Leon County, Fla. on April 3rd.
The Leon County Community Dialogue focused on access to care in the county and featured participation from the County Commissioners, the County Administrator and other county staff, staff from the Florida Department of Health in Leon County, and included leadership from community partners for the two major university medical and pharmacy schools, the hospital system, community health centers, specialty care providers, the local chapter of the United Way, and other providers for the uninsured and underserved in the community. Members of the community were also provided an opportunity to offer comments at points throughout the day.
Participants in the Community Dialogue discussed the strengths and assets of the community healthcare system, including suggestions on what strengths to build on to enhance what is already working. They also spent time on identifying the gaps in care and the barriers to access care, followed with a dialogue on solutions to overcoming those gaps. Throughout the day participants engaged in conversation on what the role of the county is and should be in enhancing assets, filling gaps, and reducing barriers in accessing care in the community.
A number of important strengths and assets in the community healthcare system were discussed to open the Community Dialogue, including Leon County’s unique situation as home to two major universities which house a medical school and pharmacy school with strong commitments to serving the uninsured and underserved populations in the county (Florida State University and Florida A&M University, respectively), a commitment which is also shared by numerous other health service partnerships and providers serving those populations in the community. Leon County is also home to Florida’s state capitol, Tallahassee, which offers the county opportunities to collaborate with state policymakers.
Following the discussion of the strengths and assets of the community healthcare system, participants identified a number of important opportunities to address provider capacity in the community, disruptions to the continuum of care for patients, and creating a more patient-centered model of healthcare. These gaps were mentioned as especially acute issues for the uninsured, underserved, and newly insured populations in the community.
The day wrapped up with a discussion about removing gaps and identifying solutions. A significant amount of conversation was focused on the development/enhancement of a committee or council that would create a shared community vision with community-based priorities and outcome-driven goals that would drive the design of a strategic plan involving partners spanning both health and non-health leaders (e.g. community leaders in transportation, planning, law enforcement, and others). As a next step, participants offered their respective resources and time to increase community collaboration to improve health in Leon County.
Bullitt County, KY will hold the next Community Dialogue on May 15th.
To learn more about the Community Dialogues to Improve County Health and NACo’s Elected County Officials’ Guide to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, please contact Andrew Whitacre, Health Associate, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.942.4215.