Skokie releases first community health plan
Skokie Thursday, 11/29/12 Sarla Tangri, of Skokie has her blood pressure taken by RN FNP, Sue Reisberg at the Skokie Health Department Thursday morning. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
THE SKOKIE COMMUNITY 2012 HEALTH PLAN
The top four priorities are:
• Improving access to health care
• Preventing obesity
• Preventing tobacco use
• Protecting the environment
To see the new health community guide, access www.skokie.org.
Updated: January 7, 2013 6:16AM
SKOKIE — A healthy village improves access to health care for all, prevents obesity, prevents tobacco use and protects the environment.
Those are the results of an unprecedented survey of Skokie residents that became major priorities in Skokie’s first community health plan.
The Skokie Community 2012 Health Plan, at least two years in the making, creates a blueprint of sorts for the next five years when it comes to health in the village.
“The plan establishes five-year community health priorities for the Skokie Health Department and its partners, and creates a vision for a healthy community,” said Dr. Catherine Counard, the village’s health director.
Skokie, one of the few municipal certified health departments in the state, has already moved forward with programs that fulfill some of these priorities. It was one of the first municipalities in the state to adopt a no-smoking ordinance long before the state outlawed smoking in public places.
More recently, Skokie collaborated with Evanston and other partners to create the Erie Family Health Center, providing specialty medical care to those who cannot afford it.
The new health plan was created by a diverse group of community members and Skokie leaders known as the IPLAN Committee. The survey was the result of more than 1,360 returned surveys in the village.
“It was a big undertaking,” Counard said, “and something we wanted to create for a long time.”
Every five years, all certified health departments in Illinois must set some guidelines for the next five years. But in recent years, Counard said, the federal government and the state have pushed health departments to be more involved in the community. That push coincided with Counard’s own goal for more community input in creating a health plan.
Previous five-year plans were department-focused without community involvement, she said.
”It was not an encompassing engagement of the community, which is really what I wanted,” Counard said, adding that she always believed the community should define its own health needs. Counard was also inspired by Chicago, which in 2010 came out with its own health plan, Healthy Chicago.
Skokie Board of Health Chair A. Michael Drachler emphasized that another benefit of the health plan is joining with other health care partners in the community. Skokie is likely to work with institutions more such as Turning Point Behavioral Care and Skokie Hospital to name just a few as a result of the plan. NorthShore University Health System and St. Francis Hospital were among several partners providing input into the plan as well.
If there was any surprise among the top four priorities as defined by the community, it was the high ranking of “protecting the environment,” Counard said.
Village Trustees, when presented with the completed guide last month, said they believe this priority represents a forward-thinking community, a mature community.
In fact, every age group broken out in the survey results placed protecting the environment as one of their top 10 priorities.
While the Health Department and Board of Health created a series of policies from these survey results, the challenge now is formulating specific programs that adhere to the new blueprint.
“This guide seems like the end of the process, but it’s really just the start,” Counard said. “Now we have to take these four areas in addition to our regular work and make sure we really are making meaningful steps that meet the plan.”