Dr. Francisco Garcia: Working toward a healthier Pima County

2014-04-22T00:00:00Z Dr. Francisco Garcia: Working toward a healthier Pima CountyBy Dr. Francisco Garcia Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Pima County isn’t as healthy as we can be. We hear it in the media every day.

For the past two years, we have been hearing from you, through the Healthy Pima process, about both the important challenges we face and the solutions that exist. You told us that there are four key areas that we as a community need to work on.

  • Supporting individuals, families and communities to engage in healthy lifestyles.
  • Empowering folks with information and skills they need to make health and lifestyle decisions.
  • Facilitating access to health-care services.
  • Working to address the unique challenges faced by our most vulnerable communities.

But knowing your priorities takes us only part of the way — we also need to take action. I know that when someone talks about “strategic planning,” eyes start glazing over, but it is the critical step by which we make sure what we do in the Health Department is aligned with your priorities.

When a young mom comes to our WIC Program for breast-

feeding assistance or help assuring her kids’ nutritional needs, we also need to find out if we can help her in other ways. Maybe her children aren’t up to date on their vaccinations. Perhaps she needs to get family planning services for herself or her partner. Maybe she needs information about how to protect her kids from flu or whooping cough, or even how to license her dog. We need to listen to what she needs and connect her to those services.

This kind of integrated service delivery is a big challenge because we have more than 400 employees working in the community in many different settings and in collaboration with a broad range of community partners.

Our public health nurses work out of local libraries to do brief health-care assessments and connect people with care. Our tobacco team mobilizes teens to help prevent tobacco use among their peers.

Our staff also inspects public pools, spas, hotels, motels and RV parks. Our child-care health consultants work closely with child-care programs to make sure they have the tools to keep our kids safe and healthy. Ultimately, we need to weave together our efforts throughout the community with those of the broad range of public- and private-sector partners.

To get everyone at the Pima County Health Department on the same page, this month we are kicking off a five-year action plan that integrates the Healthy Pima community priorities into our daily work. We don’t expect it to be easy. Change is difficult. But it is also necessary, because in doing this work we found some gaps, we found opportunities to improve what we do, and we rediscovered a great Health Department team that is committed to making it happen.

Let me bring in one more eye-glazing word: “accreditation.” Here’s why it matters. Only 31 health departments across the country have met the high standards required to obtain this recognition. This means when clients come into an accredited department, they are assured of high-quality services.

We want to be the first county health department in Arizona to become accredited. And we can’t become accredited without showing not only that we have listened to you (our community), that we have a plan, and that we are putting the plan into action.

We have already started making progress, refining our work, and in general getting it done. This is how we create a healthy Pima County: Every one. Everywhere. Every day.

Dr. Francisco Garcia is chief medical officer for Pima County. Find information on Healthy Pima at healthypima.org

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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