September 26, 2012
LIMA — The effort to help Allen County residents live healthier lives got a little easier, thanks in part to a $1.2 million federal grant to Activate Allen County, community leaders said Wednesday morning.
Jerry Courtney, president of the Lima Family YMCA, said the effort has been awarded the funding through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Small Communities Transformation Grant. Activate Allen County is one of 40 initiatives nationwide to receive funding and the only one in the state of Ohio.
“This in many ways is historic, and it certainly speaks to the character, the leadership that exists in our community. The fact is we live in a day and time when compromise seems to be a dirty word,” Courtney said. “The fact is in Allen County 15 months ago 24 people came together, many of them competitors in their day-to-day life, set aside their agendas, looked at the greater good for our community and started to develop a strategic approach to health outcomes.”
The effort comes three years after a study found Allen County to be among the most unhealthy communities in the state. Janis Sunderhaus, CEO of Health Partners of Western Ohio, said this isn’t just a two-year project, but the beginnings of what organizers hope is sustainable change toward a healthier population.
“If you go to some of the really healthy communities around the country, it’s not a project they do and then they stop. It’s who they are,” Sunderhaus said. “What we’re hoping to do is use this $1.2 million over this next two-year period to really refocus on who we are and really focus on that ounce of prevention instead of doing what we’re doing now, [which is] the pound of cure. We wait until people are sick and then we spend all this money trying to get them better as opposed to using that ounce of prevention to be able to keep people healthy.”
The two-year effort will focus on tobacco-free living, active living and healthy eating, high impact quality clinical preventative services as well as a healthy and safe physical environment, according to Brian Smith, chief executive officer of St. Rita’s Health Partners. It’s all part of changing the culture and how people look at health, fitness and the role of health care providers, he said.
“As you look at health care in general, when you think of hospitals you think of a place you go when you’re sick. You don’t necessarily think maybe they can help me live a healthier lifestyle, maybe they can help me lose weight, maybe they can help me with my fitness level,” Smith said. “We have some of those resources but there are so many other resources out in the community that we need to tie in. Part of this is really creating that collaboration to keep people healthier. Imagine a world 10 years from now where we aren’t measured by how the number of admissions we have at a hospital, we’re measured by how few admissions we have because we’re keeping the population healthy. That’s really where we want to get to.”