Working in tandem with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Harford County Health Department has launched its Local Health Improvement Process for identifying the county's critical health needs and targeting them for action.
The Harford County Local Health Improvement Process is part of a statewide initiative, the State Health Improvement Process, which is addressing 39 key health objectives, including those promoting healthy babies, healthy social environments, safe physical environments, infectious disease prevention, chronic disease prevention, and access to health care. The Harford County Health Department is building on its "Healthy Harford" partnership with Upper Chesapeake Health System and Harford County Government and has brought key stakeholders together to work on the Local Health Improvement Process.
Health Officer Susan Kelly convened 70 key stakeholders in December 2011 at Harford Community College to review the county's health data and needs. Top health priorities identified included: obesity prevention/healthy eating and active lifestyle; tobacco use prevention/ smoke-free living; and behavioral health, including mental health and substance abuse prevention. Workgroups are now developing action plans for addressing these priorities and additional community input will be solicited and encouraged in the future.
Consistent with Harford County's LHIP effort is Harford County's Obesity Task Force that was established by a county council resolution in October 2011 to make recommendations concerning the programs and policies for creating a healthier Harford County; to educate Harford County citizens regarding healthier living, food choices, and exercise; to provide for accessibility to healthy and affordable foods; and to identify ways to develop and implement more opportunities for walkable communities and recreational activities throughout the county.
"This initiative blends well with our Local Health Improvement Process," said Health Officer Susan Kelly, "and is consistent with our mission to protect, promote and improve the health of Harford County residents. These improvements can only be accomplished through effective community assessment, education, collaboration and assurance of services." Three committees have been established to carry out the charge of the Task Force and a final report will be prepared by October 2012.
To help support these health improvement efforts, the Harford County Health Department was recently notified that it will be awarded grant funds from the Community Transformation Grant, a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program through the state health department. The Community Transformation Grant supports community-level efforts to promote healthy lifestyles among population groups experiencing the greatest burden of chronic disease in order to improve health, reduce health disparities, and control health care spending.
Together, these local health improvement efforts represent an exciting opportunity to improve the health of Harford County residents. More information and updates regarding Harford County's Local Health Improvement Process and the Maryland State Health Improvement Process are available by visiting http://www.harfordcountyhealth.com and http://dhmh.maryland.gov/ship/SitePages/Home.aspx, respectively. In addition, county-specific health data snapshots have been made available by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin at their County Health Rankings website at http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/app/maryland/2012/harford/county/1/overall.