MAYVILLE - The Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services wants to see the community work together to improve quality of life.
On Tuesday, a comprehensive assessment was released by the department regarding Chautauqua County's overall health and social conditions and found problem areas within obesity rates, reproductive health and mental health.
Additionally, an improvement plan was developed in order to set goals for a healthier future in the next three years.
Christine Schuyler, director of Health and Human Services, said the review identified new public health issues within the community in addition to those which already exist, such as obesity and chronic disease.
In order to gauge the community's perceived health priorities, assets and needs, a planning team thoroughly examined public input through Web-based and paper surveys and three community conversations.
The Chautauqua County Community Health Planning Team consisted of representatives from Health and Human Services; Brooks Memorial Hospital; TLC Health Network; WCA Hospital; Westfield Memorial Hospital; Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene; Chautauqua County Health Network; The Chautauqua Center; and P2 of Western New York.
The group also studied secondary health data provided by the New York State Department Of Health and selected health disparities to focus on along with collaborative interventions.
"The Community Health Assessment highlights the need for people and organizations from all sectors of the county - public, private, educational, nonprofit, media or philanthropic - to work deliberately and collaboratively to improve the public's health through policies, programs and services," Schuyler said.
The first focus area involves reducing obesity in children and adults in the next three years through creating community environments which promote and support healthy food and beverage choices along with physical activity.
A summary of data from the New York State Department of Health from 2008-10 found that, among all students in Chautauqua County, with the exception of Silver Creek, 19 percent were classified as obese and 16.2 percent were classified as overweight. The rate of obesity was slightly higher than the state comparison rate of 17.6 percent.
In a countywide sampling of self-reported weight status, emphasis was placed on the communities of Dunkirk, Jamestown and Silver Creek. According to the study, 39 percent of county residents were not overweight or obese, 29 percent were obese and 32 percent were overweight.
Initiatives for improvement include media campaigns, presentations and tracking sales data to identify increases or decreases in sales of nutritious products and working with schools to improve quality of meals being served.
According to the report, the Chautauqua County Health Network will work with local hospitals to identify ways to expand the sale of locally produced food along and educating community members about the positive aspects of a healthy diet.
The impact will then be evaluated to identify new opportunities for expansion of programs and access for low-income families to healthy food.
The second focus area aims to increase utilization of preventive health services among women of reproductive age to improve wellness and pregnancy outcomes, and reduce recurrence of adverse birth outcomes.
Working to decrease smoking rates in pregnant women and assisting new mothers in navigating health and social systems would ensure positive outcomes, according to the study.
A breakdown of figures from the Department of Health found that rates of newborn hospitalization due to narcotics and hallucinogenic agents and cocaine in Chautauqua County were nearly double the state rate from 2001-10.
"Poor maternal child health indicators such as low birth weight babies and babies with positive drug screens at birth now demonstrate the need to better address this area," Schuyler said.
Another objective in the second focus area includes encouraging women enrolled in the Women Infants and Children program to implement breast-feeding through programs at local hospitals and garner community support for breast-feeding.
According to a WIC study from 2009-11, 13.9 percent of mothers were still breast-feeding their babies at 6 months of age. This figure is much lower than the state comparison.
Additionally, the Department of Health found that from 2008-10, 62.8 percent of births were designated as having adequate prenatal care and the rate of prenatal care during the first trimester was greater among mothers who participate in the WIC program at 84.2 percent.
The assessment's third focus area involves mental well-being and included collaboration among professionals working in fields of mental health promotion and chronic disease prevention to integrate screening and treatment for mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.
"The growing problems of mental health and substance abuse are new areas where we in public health plan to become more involved," Schuyler said.
Poor behaviors and personal choices regarding tobacco use, food choices and level of physical activity feed into the problem of chronic disease in Chautauqua County, according to the report, which also found many residents suffering from poor mental health and self-medication for these problems.
Data from a 24-hour mental health hotline contracted through the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene and Crisis Services from 2011-13 showed a gradual, but fluctuating overall increase in the utilization of the service with 51 percent of calls involving mental health issues.
In 2008-09, 20.5 percent of adults over the age of 18 in Chautauqua County self-reported that they were binge drinkers, slightly higher than the state average of 18.1 percent.
Solutions included recruiting community partners to form mental health and substance abuse work groups and researching the incidence of street drug overdoses to determine the capacity to deliver effective detox services.
Strategies chosen to address the selected focus areas were a combination of existing and new strategies for Chautauqua County, the report concluded.
The community health improvement plan was developed with the help of the New York State Department of Health's Prevention Agenda, Brooks Memorial Hospital, TLC Health Network, WCA Hospital, Westfield Memorial Hospital, the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene and the Chautauqua County Health Network.
The Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan for 2014-17 are available at www.co.chautauqua.ny.us/departments/HHS/Pages/default.aspx.