Oakland County’s new Community Health Improvement Plan provides a road map for healthy living

Oakland County’s community-wide health improvement initiative Energizing Connections for Healthier Oakland (ECHO) was created by the Oakland County Health Division in 2013 with the goal of achieving a community where everyone who lives, works, attends schools, worships, or plays in Oakland County is a healthy person.
This was the first time the county has done an all-encompassing health improvement plan and the county-wide Community Health Assessment (CHA) is the most comprehensive health assessment done to date in the county, done through the nationally-recognized Mobilizing for Action Through Planning and Partnership program.
Five strategic issues came out of this assessment formed the basis for Oakland County’s new Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP): healthy eating, active living, built environment, data and informatics, and access to care.
CHIP gives goals and objectives for each of these strategic issues and describes reasons why these issues were selected, data to support it, as well as goals, objectives, and suggested actions for the community to incorporate and be involved.
“The whole point is to be a road map for the community and encourage cross-sector participation,” says Kathleen Forzley, Health Officer and Manager with the Oakland County Health Division. “If we align all these things around we can make a difference.”
She says they will be rolling out four action teams: a healthy eating food policy council, an active living network (which will incorporate the built environment), an access to care workgroup, and an informatics work group.
“We are looking for way to integrate all of our products and services,” says Forzley. “Some people, like employers, don’t realize what they’re doing has a health impact, so when we align everything in a coordinated fashion we will begin to see this coordination of efforts. We’re asking organizations, ‘What are you doing that aligns with these issues?’ and tracking that online so we can more easily see where we have gaps we need to fill, where we can make referrals, and just have better sense of where we stand in the community.”
Forzley says they want to bring more “nontraditional” partners into this effort, specifically the business community.
“A lot of businesses might not see what they have to do with health – actually, a lot. You have a workforce that makes policies on health. You can encourage health. Do your employees sit at a desk all day? This CHIP was written for the entire community, excluding no organization or business. And if we have a healthy community, we will have a thriving community.”