Making the Healthy Choice, the Easy Choice
Today, chronic diseases affect almost 50% of Americans and account for 7 of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States. Chronic diseases and conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and arthritis cause suffering and limitations to daily life for many individuals. Preventable health risk factors such as tobacco use and exposure, insufficient physical activity, and poor nutrition contribute greatly to the development and severity of many chronic diseases. The Healthy Communities Program is helping to prevent chronic diseases by working to reduce health risk factors and attain health equity.
IPAN is engaging communities and mobilizing partnerships to assess community health and focus on chronic disease prevention in Idaho.
In 2011-2012, Idaho's local public health districts utilized the CDC's Community Health Assessment aNd Group Evaluation (CHANGE) Tool to assess policies and practices that support healthy communities and healthy people. Seven communities assessed the places and organizations that touch people’s lives every day—schools, work sites, health care sites, and other community settings—to turn the tide on the national epidemic of chronic diseases. Community teams are addressing gaps and barriers found during the assessment process to foster health promoting environments and create healthy choices and places where people live, learn, work, and play. Creating sustainable changes addressing the major risk factors—tobacco, physical inactivity, and unhealthy eating - were the focus areas of this health assessment.
In 2011-12, the seven communities who completed the CHANGE Tool process were:
Health District 1: Post Falls
Health District 2: Lewiston
Health District 3: Emmett
Health District 4: Meridian
Health District 5: Rupert
Health District 6: Pocatello
Health District 7: Rexburg
Through effective community engagement and the efforts of multiple stakeholders, the seven CHANGE communities are working to improve the health of their citizens. With the support of Idaho Department of Health & Welfare Physical Activity and Nutrition Program staff, the CHANGE Tool was implemented by local public health district staff and community members to determine local health needs and priorities.
Local public health district staff were charged with forming community teams of diverse stakeholders to implement the assessment tool and evaluate their community for improvement. Working in rural communities can often be a challenge. One of the advantages was that rural team members included positions of great influence within the rural communities, including chiefs of police, city leaders, school superintendents, hospital CFO's, and parks and recreation directors. With assessments complete, CHANGE teams have selected their priorities and are working on implementing solutions. Examples of selected priorities include:
-Researching and securing funding to address CHANGE priorities;
-Forming a sub-committee to attend city council meetings and advocate for CHANGE priorities;
-Researching the development and implementation of a city-wide worksite wellness program;
-Developing guidelines for food banks and pantries to hold healthy food drives as a method of curbing hunger and obesity;
-Creating healthy check-out lines at local grocers;
-Improving activity time at recess;
-Connecting walking and bikeways, developing signage for greenways;
-Addressing tobacco prevention, cessation, and tobacco-free polices; and
-Developing school and community garden programs.