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Continuing participation needed to assess county's health needs, priorities

In May, The Partnership for a Healthier County held it's annual "We're on Our Way" forum. Since 1999, The Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County has been devoted to improving the health and quality of life in our community.

It all began in 1996 when a "Resolution for Better Health; Forming a Community Partnership " was signed by the Carroll County Commissioners and the Board of Directors of Carroll County Hospital. The following year a completed needs assessment began the efforts of The Partnership to support the community in a long-term health improvement effort.

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Twenty-one years later, The Partnership continues to seek to improve the health and quality of life in our community. In fact, according to the Robert Wood Foundation, Carroll County ranked No. 1 in the state for quality of life and third in health outcomes.

Within the last year, The partnership asked us, the members of the community, "What makes a county healthy?" The "Chalkboard Project" which gave us all the opportunity to weigh in with our ideas was conducted at various sites around the county, including the library, county office building, Fall Fest, Tevis Wellness Center, downtown Sykesville and online.

One thousand people responded to "A healthy community is…." The responses, which varied, were placed into categories: Connections: supportive, helpful, family oriented, to what is referred to as "Built Community" or infrastructure such as parks, trails, biking paths, community events, accessibility and safety of the community and finally Social Responsibility: accepting, diverse, and engaged.

Local Sykesville artist VJ Thurston then translated these responses into a painting, "A Healthy Community Vision." The painting was recently unveiled at the forum. A Healthy Community Vision is being loaned to local organizations for showing in community offices, public facilities, and places of business.

It is the hope and vision of the Partnership that "Sharing, promoting, and celebrating these values will result in better plans, better programs, and better health and well-being for residents." Thanks to The Partnership and their innovative ideas, Carroll County has been held up as a role model in promoting health and wellness throughout the country. This vision has resulted in counties across the country replicating the program.

The Partnership has wrapped up its Chalkboard Project and is now moving forward with conducting a Community Health Survey for the 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). The Assessment process includes seeking community input. From the Healthy Carroll website www.healthycarroll.org: Starting July 1, 2017 residents can take a brief, anonymous online survey about their health and factors that contribute to health and wellness. Survey responses will help us to identify any health barriers or unmet needs in Carroll County.

All adults who live in Carroll County are invited to take the survey.

The survey, which is made possible through the support of Carroll Hospital, will be open throughout the months of July and August in 2017 on the The Partnership website and will also include focus groups.

Carroll Hospital, the Carroll County Health Department, and The Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County work together to conduct the Assessment, which is done every three years. Results from the assessment will be used to develop a new Community Benefit and Health Improvement Plan, which will be available to the public on HealthyCarroll.org, under "Plans." Many key partners in the community, including organizations, agencies, businesses and individual citizens, help to carry out this Plan's actions to improve the health and quality of life of everyone living in Carroll County.

An accurate picture of the health needs and priorities in Carroll County can only be formed with the participation of our residents. For more information, contact Lisa Wack at 410-871-6032 or LWack@CarrollHospitalCenter.org or visit www.healthycarroll.org.

Jill Rosner is a registered nurse, certified geriatric care manager and owner of Rosner Healthcare Navigation. She provides patient advocacy and care management services to clients with health and aging issues. Contact her at JillRosnerRN@aol.com.

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