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 fourth session of the series was held in Washington County, N.C. on September 19th.
As a rural county of roughly 12,000 residents in eastern North Carolina, community leaders in Washington County decided to focus their Community Dialogue on addressing access to transportation. As the Martin-Tyrrell-Washington (MTW) District Health Department began to consider the issues facing their county, they noticed high rates of no-shows to health service appointments. After following up with these residents that were unable to make their appointments, they realized that an inability to physically get to their clinics created a high barrier to accessing health services, and that this problem applied to other daily needs like grocery shopping, employment and education for residents across the county.
During the Community Dialogue, county leaders engaged in interactive exercises to discuss the strengths and assets of current county transportation options and the gaps and barriers that exist for residents that need access to public transportation. Participants included representatives from county government agencies, county elected officials, state elected officials representing the county and other important community stakeholders. They discussed barriers to their current transportation options that included a lack of those options, the amount of planning necessary to ride current public transportation (riders must schedule an appointment to ride the bus), the lack of fixed routes and the difficulty of serving a large geographic area that has a small population.
T. Lee Covington and Meggan Odell from the Aging, Disability, & Transit Services of Rockingham County, N.C. provided a keynote address that highlighted their efforts to shift from a largely Medicaid-based transportation system to a thriving public transportation system that serves all of their residents. They discussed how the mission and goals were changed to make this shift, how funding was secured and how their routes are financed and what steps they have taken to get community buy-in and develop ridership in a rural county. As participants engaged in their discussion of next steps, Mr. Covington and Ms. Odell provided discussion and feedback to address Washington County's needs.
Stephanie Johnson, a Community Coach at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, provided a discussion of the County Health Rankings, including how the model works, why certain measures are chosen and how to compare county rankings within a state. She also delivered a demonstration of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps What Works for Health tool, which provides counties with evidence-based solutions to address the health factors that make up the County Health Rankings model. For more information on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, listen to the NACo podcast or visit countyhealthrankings.org .
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.