Plan targets county health issues

Champaign research focuses on four key areas for improvement.

The Champaign County Community Health Plan is the result of a survey conducted earlier this year with the assistance of researchers at Wright State University. The survey identified four priorities, including adult mental health, nutrition and exercise, youth substance abuse and young child wellness. The health district and several local agencies will work together, creating specific plans to address those issues.

In the long term, the health plan could also help the health district set priorities for its budget and provide additional information to apply for grants, said Shelia Hiddleson, director of the Champaign Health District.

“In Champaign County, we have never had a comprehensive health assessment that included primary data collection,” Hiddleson said.

Among the results, the health assessment showed more than 70 percent of residents who responded said they were obese or overweight, which can lead to numerous health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. The plan calls for the health district to work with the Champaign County YMCA and create at least one program to encourage healthy eating and exercise for residents.

One program being considered is a “5-2-1, Almost None” program currently being used by the YMCA in Urbana City Schools. The program encourages students to eat five fruits and vegetables a day, spend two hours or less in front of a computer or television, exercise for an hour a day and eliminate sugary drinks. The program has been in place for more than a year in the district, and has already shown positive results among middle school students, said Kelly Evans-Wilson, a board member for the YMCA.

While it’s still early in the process, Evans-Wilson said its possible the YMCA program could be implemented in other school districts in the county to improve health among students. The county health plan is pulling several area organizations in the same direction in order to improve the health of residents overall, Evans-Wilson said.

“I like that there’s actually some direction, that we’re all going together,” Evans-Wilson said.

The health assessment also found more than 40 percent of adult residents who experienced depression reported it was so severe it prevented them from performing their usual activities. Under the health plan, the county would work with Mercy Memorial Hospital and local physicians to screen patients for mental illness. The goal would be to identify residents who might need mental health services earlier in the process, as well as reduce the stigma sometimes associated with mental health.

The county’s health plan also sets both short and long-term goals to measure whether the programs being implemented are successful, Hiddleson said. The plan also tries to identify possible funding sources to pay for the programs as they are enacted.

In the future, Hiddleson said she expects the county to develop a new health plan every five years.

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