Will County Approves New Community Health Plan

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Community Health Plan

Asthma and obesity are listed among four principal problem areas identified in a new community health plan completed by the Will County Health Department.

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The core functions of public health include assessment and assurance. Twice each decade, the State of Illinois requires certified local health jurisdictions to complete a comprehensive needs assessment and plan in order to identify community health problems, and address the most critical health priorities using measurable objectives. Asthma, obesity, the need for unified mental health services, and access to primary health care were identified as areas of most critical Will County concern. Will County hospitalizations due to asthma have increased steadily since 2000. The Will/Kankakee Asthma Network (the Will County Health Department is an active member) distributed a school survey to area districts in November, 2006. The preliminary data suggests that at least 7 percent of local school-aged students have been diagnosed with asthma.

Obesity has become a growing health problem in Will County and across the U.S. It is a major risk factor in the development of numerous chronic diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Access to health care and issues surrounding it were a constant theme throughout the needs assessment. According to focus groups conducted in conjunction with the Community Health Plan, the escalating cost of health insurance and prescription drugs were seen as especially acute problems.

There were more than 4,600 Will County hospitalizations due to mental illness during 2004. According to recent community health surveys, 38 percent of respondents consider youth mental health services as a critical local need. Homelessness and the general lack of mental health services were also seen as critical needs. A year-long process, the Community Health Plan was completed with the help of a comprehensive needs assessment conducted by United Way of Will County. The plan is intended to help local agencies, and community groups, develop critical health strategies capable of providing maximum benefits to people who live and work throughout Will County.

Funding for the needs assessment portion of the Community Health Plan was provided by the Chicago Community Trust. The comprehensive community plan was completed with the help of numerous Will County organizations; including Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center, Silver Cross Hospital, Lewis University, University of St. Francis, Governor State University, Joliet Junior College, Will County Community Development (a division of Will County Land Use), Senior Services Center of Will County, Crisis Line of Will County, and Stepping Stones.

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