April 8, 2019
To the Editor,
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute recently released the annual County Health Rankings report. As we know, the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps give us not only a snapshot of our county's health status, but also provide hints of how to make improvements. Over the past years, our community has wisely followed the roadmaps.
The Health Rankings divide health status into two measures: health outcomes and health factors. Each measure consists of more than one attribute. The health outcomes include the length of life and the quality of life. The health factors include dozens of ratings in the categories of health behaviors, clinical care, socioeconomic factors, and physical environment.
In 2019, Oswego County's health outcomes and attributes dramatically improved to the middle ranges among all counties in the state. Especially, the improvements in health factors show our progress is small but significant. I hope the 2019 ranking will be the turning point for Oswego County in its continuous journey toward a healthier community for all.
How have we achieved the improvements reflected in the 2019 rankings?
I would not have the correct answer if I hadn't had the opportunity to work with community leaders on an application for a prestigious prize in recent months.
Starting late last summer, leaders from CiTi BOCES, Farnham Family Services, Oswego Renaissance Association, Fulton Block Builders, and the County Health Department worked together, on behalf of our community, to apply for a national prize called Culture of Health by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It was a three-stage application process: first an open written application, then an invited additional written application with a video, and finally a site visit by the Foundation. Only four prizes were awarded last year. In the beginning, we knew it would be a big challenge for us, but we wanted to go through the process to see how we have been doing compared to other communities in the nation and to bring more local attention to the needs of improving health.
Our community entered the first phase and was invited to submit for the second phase, but we were not selected for the third phase of the application. I learned a lot through the application process. Many local agencies and organizations have developed numerous programs to improve our community's health over the past years. These programs are novel, creative, and forward-thinking. For example, our health and social service agencies are working on a county-wide integrated service delivery system to streamline different services to residents; our schools have created various programs for student careers or learning success in high schools and elementary schools; and our community hospital is spreading a nutrition and exercise program in all elementary schools throughout the county. I was not surprised to hear one of the community leaders state in the video submitted for the application that "this county has so many collaborations and connections now … We moved ahead so far and so fast. We are making great progress."
The improvements reflected in the 2019 county health rankings are because of our community's novel, creative, and forward-thinking collaboration and partnerships. Let's continue to strive for collaboration to consolidate our achievements and to engage new partners for further progress.
If you're interested in becoming involved in this effort, please contact me at 315-349-3540 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Public Health
Oswego County Health Department
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