Archive for Friday, June 8, 2012

Building a healthy community

June 8, 2012

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Douglas County is a generous and thoughtful community. This past year over $1.7 million was donated to United Way to help make a difference in the lives of the people who live here. Thousands donate their time, skill and energy to United Way and other worthy local organizations toward the goal of improving life for everyone.

The United Way and the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department were part of the steering committee that recently completed a countywide assessment of our health and quality of life. Over 1,500 people participated in this process, and we report to you that the challenges facing our neighbors are very real. To address these challenges we need to start a conversation about what impacts the health of our community.

The Community Health Assessment describes the circumstances about the well-being of the entire community. We are healthy in some respects, but in others we have failed. Our efforts as a community to address human need have been well meaning but not always effective in really making a difference on our community as a whole.

United Way, the Health Department and many others believe that to create solutions to community problems the following community conditions must be present: shared vision for change, shared measurement system, coordinated action, constant communication and backbone organizations able to plan, manage and support the vision.

We need to harness our collective efforts and measure the results. We can’t just work harder as a community; we have to work smarter. We have to bring people together around common goals. The health assessment is designed to be a springboard for the development of a Community Health Improvement Plan. The United Way, over the past several years has begun planning and focusing on some common goals. It isn’t just the Health Department and United Way that believe that we need to make progress on education, health and self-sufficiency. Everyone in the community — individual, public, private, nonprofit — has a vested interest in making a real difference.

If we are successful we will change the trajectory of our community health. This would mean all children, regardless of income, having access to affordable quality child care. Douglas County must be a place where teens and children have a shot at being successful in school, where everyone has access to health care they need and where our fellow citizens have an opportunity to get back on their feet through steady jobs and decent housing.

How are we part of the solution? Could I lock arms with my neighbor to address the pressing needs of our community? Take time to read the Community Health Assessment and watch the video “Let’s Start a Conversation” at ldchealth.org, then ask yourself, if the best way to meet our goals is as one community, what can I do?

— Bryan Culver is chairman of the United Way of Douglas County Board. Paul Liechti is chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Board. This column is written on behalf of both boards.

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