The Douglas County Community Health Plan was introduced last year, outlining five areas the community could improve upon over the next five years. So what progress did the community make toward those goals in 2013?
"Our biggest success in 2013 for physical activity was a substantial amount of work to make the community more walkable and bike-able through infrastructure," said Chris Tilden, community health director for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
The Sunflower Foundation awarded four grants to entities in Douglas County last year (two in Eudora, one each in Baldwin City and Lawrence) for trail development. A countywide bike plan was also developed in 2013 and could be finalized early this year.
Douglas County Community Health Plan ( .PDF )
"I think probably the most significant development was the first-ever creation of nutrition standards for food and beverage offerings by Lawrence Parks and Recreation," Tilden said.
In 2013, Parks and Recreation integrated nutrition standards into the contracts for its food and beverages in vending machines and concessions at its facilities. This stemmed from a grant that LiveWell Lawrence received from the Kansas Health Foundation to promote healthy eating options in Lawrence, which led to the collaboration with Parks and Recreation.
Access to health services
One way to broaden access to health services, local public health officials say, is to improve preventive and primary care services in the community.
In 2013, two local primary care practices — Health Care Access and Internal Medicine Group, both of Lawrence — were designated as patient-centered medical homes, which goes to clinics that meet certain standards of centralizing and following up on patient care. "The patient-centered medical home model looks at how do you use teams of health care providers to ensure continuity of health care services and get patients involved in coordinating their own care," Tilden said.
The community took steps toward integrating mental health and primary care in 2013. In March, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and Heartland Community Health Center received a grant in March to continue a partnership that had a behavioral health consultant from Bert Nash providing services at Heartland. Last year, a psychiatric nurse from Bert Nash started working at Heartland, one of whose primary care providers spent time at the mental health center.
Tilden said as many as 70 percent of diagnoses in primary care settings stem from psychological rather than physical issues. Public health officials hope the partnership can streamline care and reduce any stigma medical patients might have with going to a mental health center.
The Lawrence school district announced plans in 2013 to build a college and career center in Lawrence, which will be funded in part by the $92.5 million bond issue voters approved last April. The facility is set to be located near 31st and Haskell, next to the site of an adult job training center proposed by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. Both centers could be open by next year. "Economic well-being and education are great predictors of health care status," Tilden added.