The Health Improvement Process helps communities progress toward better health. The process begins with gathering population-level health information, analyzing it, creating a data-driven plan for community-wide change to address the community’s greatest health need, implementing the community health improvement plan, and evaluating work to ensure outcomes are achieved. It is essentially strategic planning for population health. The process repeats every five years to make sure new information is considered.
What is a Health Improvement Plan?
A health improvement plan provides a framework and consensus-based recommendations for improving the health of residents of a local community. It provides insight into health solutions for the long-term and presents a road map for achieving optimal health for all. Good health in a community provides a foundation for quality of life for its residents, lower costs of poor health, and a thriving community and economy.
How was the Maryland State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) developed and what does it contain?
Work on the Maryland State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) began in January 2011 by the State of Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. SHIP 2011-14 targets were selected after reviewing state, local and national plans and indicators, consulting with state officials, and meeting with health and community leaders to discuss health outcomes and factors. The SHIP includes 39 measures in six focus areas that represent what it means for Maryland to be healthy. Through ongoing public feedback, SHIP measures may be adjusted and revised.
What are local health priorities for St. Mary’s County?
In 2009, data to create a health profile of St. Mary’s County was gathered from a variety of sources — a community health needs assessment conducted by MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, public health surveillance systems, birth and death records for the county, and hospital/clinical data systems. In addition, St. Mary’s County residents, community-based organizations, and health care providers provided input on what they identified as health priorities and gaps in health for our community. Ongoing meetings with teams of health care professionals, social service agencies, public health representatives, and other local organizations were held to determine health priorities for St. Mary’s County.
Key local health priorities were then chosen for the period of 2010 – 2015, according to the seriousness of the issue and the ability for the community to improve the health issue through coordinated community action during the five year period of time. The local health priorities for the 2010-2015 local health improvement process in St. Mary’s County are:
- Healthy Eating, Active Living, and Overweight/Obesity
- Tobacco Use and Exposure to Secondhand Smoke
- Behavioral Health (including Mental Health and Substance Use)
- Access to Healthcare Services
Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership – Our Local Health Improvement Coalition
The St. Mary’s County Health Department and other key community partners launched the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership (“Healthy St. Mary’s”) in April 2013 to serve as the local health improvement coalition for St. Mary’s County. Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership is community-driven and community-based. It includes an expanding number of public and private partners working together to address the priority health needs for St. Mary’s County, as set by the local health improvement process.
Through action teams, Healthy St. Mary’s addresses the priority health areas for the current cycle of the local health improvement process. For the 2011–2015 cycle, health priority areas for St. Mary’s County and their corresponding action teams are as follows:
- Healthy Eating, Active Living, and Overweight/Obesity → HEAL action team
- Tobacco Use and Exposure to Secondhand Smoke → Tobacco Free Living action team
- Behavioral Health (including Mental Health and Substance Abuse) → Behavioral Health action team
- Access to Healthcare Services → Access to Care action team
For more information about the local health improvement process, plan, and coalition – visit the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership. Membership is open to any public or private organization/group and residents in St. Mary’s County; details on becoming a member is located at www.HealthyStMarys.com.