PDT Staff Writer
Portsmouth City Health Commissioner Chris Smith says the organizational meeting of the Scioto County Health Coalition on May 11 was a success. Now, the group is recruiting more participants from all walks of life to get involved in future meetings.
“The Coalition is open to all government agencies, all businesses, non-government organizations, volunteer organizations, and all citizens,” Smith said. “So we hope everybody will sign up.”
Smith said the Coalition has a lot of people involved from the City of Portsmouth, and he and other Coalition members would like to see more county participation.
“We’re going to meet with the (Scioto) County Commissioners and let them know what’s going on, and get more of them involved,” Smith said. “We’re just a little city-heavy, especially with the people running the committees in the afternoon. A lot of those are city people because we were able to quickly grab them. We just want to make sure we don’t just make it a city initiative, but we make it a countywide initiative.”
Smith said the Coalition was founded because of the poor health ranking of Scioto County. The county is at the bottom or near the bottom in several health categories.
“The Coalition is not being put in place to create anything new or even do anything new,” Smith said. “It’s being put in place to provide a bridge and connection between all the different agencies that have something to do with public health so that we can increase our ranking.”
Scioto County Health Commissioner Dr. Aaron Adams said he agrees with Smith that it is important for people from all walks of life to add to the Coalition.
“We have to have that cooperation by people to understand the problems that we have to fix,” Adams said. “As a physician, I would see it from one angle, and maybe someone like Chris would see it from an environmental angle, based on your background. We have people elected to political office who would say, ‘I’ve got to take care of the people who put me in,’ and fix the problems. Someone who is an educator would say we need to provide more education in the public sector. Someone in business who sees people unable to pass a drug test or come to work or having chronic health conditions that we have not addressed properly.”
When there is such a cooperative effort, Adams said, health issues are addressed earlier and wellness issues are addressed.
“We want everybody we can talk into participating to participate, because in the health factors we rank 88th (in Ohio), and that’s where I’m focusing my energy on,” Adams said.
Adams said one of the people he finds helpful in the Coalition is Dr. Mattie Burton, associate dean and chairwoman of the Department of Nursing at Shawnee State University.
“Dr. Mattie Burton will be my backup coordinator, and what I hope to do is have her co-coordinate with me,” Adams said. “I think we need as many people as we can to get involved with this. Her background is in nursing and being over the Nursing Department at Shawnee State University. She’s a very talented lady with good ideas, and they’ve got that bus down at Shawnee State and we can just go and do health fairs on, and get more people involved. They’ve got students at Shawnee State in nursing, in physical therapy and in occupational therapy, health care administrators that can help us get out and focus on the problem. Plus we have the medical students and the residents at Southern Ohio Medical Center, and to reach out and screen more people, not just to fix the health care problem, but the environmental problems as well.”
Smith said he believes a lot of socioeconomic issues play into the low health ranking.
“When you look at health rankings, they are measured by a list of factors,” Smith said. “That list is going to include wellness issues such as smoking rate, obesity rate, morbidity and mortality, but it also lists things like high school dropout rates, graduation rates, and looks at economics — income levels — access to health care, environmental factors such as housing — a lot of economic factors. One thing we do know is that economics drives health. The higher the income level of a community, the higher their health outcomes are.”
The next meeting of the Scioto County Health Coalition is scheduled for June 8 from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. in the University Center building on the campus of Shawnee State University.
Smith said signup sheets are available by calling Beth Dunlap, coalition administrator, at 740-354-3829, ext. 224, or by emailing her at email@example.com, or Chris Smith at 740-352-2560, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com.