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Crook County to benefit from new Regional Health Improvement Plan developed to guide work, decisions to improve community health

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The Crook County Health Department director and staff played a role in developing the Regional Health Improvement Plan and will utilize it for public health efforts through the next few years.

As public health efforts move forward in Crook County during the next three years, officials in the field will rely on a wide-ranging regional plan.

The Central Oregon Health Council recently announced the release of its Regional Health Improvement Plan, or RHIP, which is intended to provide a clear strategy for making Central Oregon a healthier place to live, play and thrive.

"There has never been such an inclusive and focused plan in our region for positively affecting the health of all Central Oregonians," said Elaine Knobbs-Seasholtz, director of strategy and development for Mosaic Medical, the active member of the plan's steering committee.

The plan is intended to serve the region from now until 2023.

Crook County Health Department Director Muriel DeLaVergne-Brown said that she and many people on her staff were involved in creating the RHIP, which addresses six main focus areas for the next three years in Central Oregon.

The process first began with the creation of a regional health assessment.

"That was quite a process of gathering data," DeLaVergne-Brown said. "We did focus groups across the region. In Crook County specifically, we did surveys at the (Crook County) Fair, which helped inform the regional health assessment."

DeLaVergne-Brown served on the steering committee that met regularly with the Central Oregon Health Council. The group conducted a process to determine what issues from their collected data rose to the top.

That information was then passed along to the Central Oregon Health Council board, which chose the top six areas on which the RHIP would focus. They include poverty and enhancing self-sufficiency, improving behavioral health access and coordination, promoting physical health across communities, stable housing, substance and alcohol abuse, and upstream prevention and promotion of individual well-being.

"After we got the six topics, there were groups formed that came together and wrote sections for them," DeLaVergne-Brown explained. "Many of my staff were involved in these different groups to help write."

Now that the RHIP is complete, work groups have been assigned.

"When we talk about metrics and how we want to improve what's happening in the region, there is a work group attached to each of those sections," DeLaVergne-Brown said. She added that the work group for upstream prevention, the section she helped develop for the RHIP, met for the first time this week.

The new regional plan will benefit Crook County public health in a few different ways. First, each work group can apply for funding to help with different health concerns in the community.

"Crook County Health Department currently receives funding from Central Oregon Health Council to help with our perinatal program, with our diabetes prevention program and other types of programming that improve health," DeLaVergne-Brown said.

In addition, the local health department is in the midst of developing its strategic plan, and staff members intend to incorporate many of the metrics in the RHIP to create positive change in Crook County. Meanwhile, public health leaders will dig deeper into the Crook County-specific parts of the plan and determine what they need to work on most.

DeLaVergne-Brown stressed that many entities throughout Central Oregon helped move the RHIP to completion. She noted that the hospitals worked on it, and the region's coordinated care organization supported the work. In addition, public health in all three counties participated, as did health officials in Warm Springs.

"We had a ton of community partners from the region working on this," she said. "It is all of us working to improve community health."

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