The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

August 4, 2013

One year later, Ashtabula County health committee is making headway

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — A committee taking a comprehensive look at Ashtabula County’s most critical health issues is making strides, one year after the group was formed.

Last year, the Health Needs Assessment Committee was created and quickly zeroed in on three priority areas: Mental health and suicide prevention; childhood obesity and chronic disease prevention. Each study group continues to make strides, said Rebecca Robinson, health educator and disease surveillance and epidemiology specialist with the county Health Department.

“Overall, I think everyone’s very pleased with the progress,” she said. “These are definitely areas of need.”

At a recent meeting, members working on each of the three target areas provided updates on developments. Robinson shared some highlights:

• Mental health/suicide prevention — Grants have been obtained that have helped put programs in area schools and before veterans groups. A group of local people with personal experience with suicides, Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide, remains active. LOSS members often accompany coroner investigators when they respond to suicide and traumatic death calls. Several special events geared to the topic are ahead in the coming weeks, including Suicide Prevention Awareness Week which starts Sept. 8 and includes a race/walk on Sept. 14.

• Childhood obesity — Team members recently held a day-long education program to discuss issue related to the problem, and attending were school nurses and representatives from impacted agencies. Efforts to schedule more events geared to physical activity, such as Longest Day of Play, are in the works.

• Chronic disease prevention — After deciding to expand their work to include intervention, members have spent plenty of time cataloging all the medical services already available to county residents. “We’re trying to find all the key providers,” Robinson said. The results of the research will be put into a comprehensive guide, she said.

In addition, the committee is seeking grants and other financial assistance to help put programs in place, Robinson said. Also in the works is a plan that outlines the committee’s short- and long-term goals, she said.

Each of the subgroups meet regularly on their own, and the entire committee gathers quarterly at the health department in Jefferson, Robinson said. The next meeting is Oct. 3, she said.