PDT Staff Writer
“Sharing Strategies and Connecting Communities,” was the theme of the Regional Health Summit joining leading Ohio and Kentucky innovators, educators, industry and health care leaders and policymakers to discuss how all communities can work together to use tools, programs and initiatives to build healthier communities, Wednesday at Shawnee State University.
The main speaker for the program was Dr. Ted Wymyslo, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, who talked exclusively with the Portsmouth Daily Times during a break in the activity.
“At the state level we’re encouraging all of our local health department partners to reach out in their communities; identify health needs in their communites, and then be leaders in their communities of efforts at the local level to try to address these very difficult challenging health situations, but not insurmountable,” Wymyslo said. “That means they’ve got to talk to people. They have to communicate and organize meetings like we’re seeing here today, and help people in the schools - help people in government - help people in business - help the health care systems in communities work more collaboratively together to solve the problems that none of them alone can successfully address.”
With health rankings of 87th and 88th in the state, Wymyslo said much the health issues are tied to socioeconomic issues.
“That’s what we call the social determinants of health,” Wymyslo said. “There are a number of those, so education’s a factor; employment and income is a factor; safety in a community is an important factor; all those components fit together to determine ultimately health outcomes.”
One of the organizers of the event is Dr. Terry Johnson, Medical Director for The Counseling Center and State Representative.
“The things we use to get organized with - our townships, our counties, our state boundaries, those are very important for organization and you have to have them,” Johnson said. “On the other hand, our problems flow freely across all these borders. So if we try to solve problems and we only focus on where we’re organized, then we don’t talk to each other.”
Johnson said one of the things the health coalition learned was that in Greenup County, Kentucky, they addressed their negative health indices four or five years ago, making what he called great progress, and on the Ohio side of the river, officials didn’t know about it.
“So we need to know what they did. And we need to understand that those folks over there are the same as the folks over here, and our problems go right across the border,” Johnson said. “Turns out that over a year ago Dr. David Lewis of Lawrence County (OH), was trying to address their negative health indices and we didn’t know about it. They had a bus trip to Delaware County, involving movers and shakers in Lawrence County. They went to Delaware County because they have the best health indices. Over here in Scioto County we didn’t know about it. In fact, until we brought Dr. Ted Wymyslo down for our first health summit, we really didn’t understand that we were at the bottom of the barrel.
“If you’re wanting to find the place in Ohio where you’re most likely to meet an early death - you’re here.”
Ed Hughes, Director of The Counseling Center, was also involved in the planning of the event.
“Individually we have a lot of social service providers, health care providers, businesses that have individually developed their programs very well,” Hughes said. “I think we have a great Job and Family Services, great hospitals, I think The Counseling Center has grown and met the need of the community, but it’s like the next step is for us now to start figuring out where do the problems that we’re trying to solve for people overlap; where are the gaps; how do we create better access. If I’ve got somebody that’s got a drug and alcohol problem but they’ve also got a primary health care problem, how do I get them access to that service as easily as possible? If they’ve got an educational need, how to I get them linked to GED services, or the university that does such a wonderful job in our community. If they’re looking for a job, how do I link them to employers?”
Hughes said each organization and agency has done a good job individually, but that all agencies need to interact with the other agencies to make all resources available to those who need them. That, he said, is the reason for the Regional Health Summit.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com