Part II: Moving Into Action in Clare County/Central Michigan

October 12, 2012

As a result of the 2010 Public Health Summit, the Central Michigan District Health Department created the Together We Can Health Improvement Council, which brings together stakeholders from across the region from human service agencies, media, local government, K-12 education, colleges and universities, and hospital systems. Working groups were also created within each county in the region.  

In April 2011, the Central Michigan District Health Department hosted a second public health summit.  During the summit, participants were updated on the new County Health Rankings and also participated in a brainstorming session to think about activities to address each priority area. Suggestions from the 2011 summit were vetted against evidence-based recommendations using the What Works for Health website, CDC’s The Community Guide, and Healthy People 2020 recommendations. The information gathered was presented to the Together We Can Health Improvement Council, and the group discussed and came to consensus on strategies to include in the plan. Final strategy selections appear in their Community Health Assessment and Improvement Plan.  “Champions” have been selected to lead each of the eight identified strategies, and currently work groups in all six counties are working on implementing policies, programs and systems changes.
Meanwhile, the County Health Rankings call to action has generated a number of low cost, innovative initiatives, many of them springing from the communities themselves. For example, the area enjoys a strong outdoorsman/outdoorswomen culture that includes hunting and fishing, and  numerous natural resources.  Struck by the irony that people were going hungry in the midst of so many lakes, woods, and hunting areas, one of the health department interns organized an ice fishing tournament, where  anglers caught and cleaned fish, then donated them to the local food pantry. This coming year, experienced anglers will pair up with novices and teach them how to fish to feed themselves and their families. 
As another example, the health department hosted the first 5K event to promote physical activity and raise funds. They plan to create annual 5K events in each county in the six county area district. 
The health department has also been partnering with local law enforcement across the district to create permanent prescription drop boxes.
Together We Can is currently working with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to create and implement an advocacy plan to effectively communicate their strategies and ultimately have an impact on public opinion and health policy while improving health in the region. As Heather Cole, Project Coordinator for Together We Can, said during the Aug. 28, 2012 Choose Effective Policies & Programs in-depth webinar, “We’re now learning how to move from broad community engagement into implementation.”
Together We Can’s YouTube video can be found here
Together We Can’s Community Health Assessment and Improvement Plan can be found here.
Together We Can is using the Take Action Cycle, County Health Rankings data, and the County Health Roadmaps tools and guidance.
Access the in-depth webinar slides and handout here where we featured Together We Can’s process for choosing effective policies and programs.