Oklahoma City-County Health Department holds town hall meetings to get community insight 

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What does a healthy Oklahoma City mean to you?

It’s a question the Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD) wants answered from a myriad of community members. This month, the local health department launched a community-driven strategic planning process for improving community health. At the center of the effort is a desire to hear citizens’ insights on what community health and wellness looks like and what it can become in the future, said Megan Holderness, an administrator in OCCHD’s epidemiology department.

“Based on data, we can see one piece of the puzzle, but the community discussions help us fill in the holistic approach to health and wellness,” Holderness said. “What do they see as a top health-related need for their area? We will ask about the challenges they see for their area in regards to becoming the healthiest in the state.”

Local public health leaders host the town halls, asking citizens to list and describe health outcomes or concerns in their communities. As a group, citizens will discuss health barriers, lack of programs or ways to expand current services offered by the health department.

A report summarizing the town halls and common comments will follow the community meetings. Ideas could shape future program and service options at the health department, which covers approximately 27 percent of the entire state population.

The department operates the majority of its programs from three campuses located in northeast, south and western Oklahoma City.

“It lets their voices be heard and gives us the opportunity to hear about ideas for services or programs,” Holderness said.

The town halls play a critical role in the release of the Oklahoma County Wellness Score 2017, a detailed report that serves as an update on the health status of the community. OCCHD released a wellness score report about three years ago. The 152-page document illustrated where the community stands in an array of health risks, including the number of births to teens, the percentage of people with hypertension, cancer mortality rates and suicide rates. The data is broken down by ZIP codes.

In the past, the wellness score has led public health officials to develop strategies, initiatives, policy changes and programs to effectively improve health.

By adding the town halls, the public has a chance to weigh in, sparking discussion and debate for what can be done over the next three years in Oklahoma County. In total, four town halls are offered, each in a different area of the county. Holderness expects diverse discussions to come from each of the town hall meetings, as health outcomes vary by ZIP codes.

In addition to the town halls, OCCHD hosts the County Local Pubic Health System Assessment on Thursday. The all-day conference is similar to the town halls, but the audience is made up of individuals working in public health. Discussion will center on citizens’ ability to access essential health services and the current capacities of the entire public health system.

Print headline: Talking health, The Oklahoma City-County Health Department engages citizens in discussion about improving community wellness.

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