Recently the Marco Island Fire Rescue Department hosted a focus group presented by the Department of Health in Collier County (DOH-Collier) in the development of a Community Health Assessment (CHA). By late summer, the CHA will be completed, released and then used to develop a new Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). The CHIP is designed to address specific opportunities for improved health as identified by the community.
Some of the attendees included Robert Ostbye, MPH, program manager of DOH-Collier; Andrea McKinney, operations analyst/public information officer of DOH; and Marco Island Firefighter Paramedic/Public Education Coordinator Chris Bowden.
Based on surveys submitted by Collier County residents, the top health priorities were listed as chronic disease, mental health, access to care, alcohol and drugs, and obesity. Considered to be of medium importance by those surveyed were health care of the elderly and communicable disease. Of lower importance were disabilities, dental health, and unintentional injuries.
These topics all led to an exchange of ideas. Firefighter Bowden and I, as Collier County residents with deep attachments to Marco Island, saw that some of the areas that may have been considered of medium or lower importance in the rest of the county are actually more of a priority here. In his work, Bowden sees the frequency of unintentional injuries, quite often among our tourists and visitors. He told the story of a recent drowning of a child while the family was on vacation in Marco. He also cited the need for fall prevention particularly among our elderly population. Our Fire Rescue Department is gearing toward a public outreach on fall prevention in the home. I noted that in an elderly population, many times unintentional injuries occur due to underlying causes like Parkinson’s disease, dementia, or osteoporosis.
As a member of the older than 55 population, a cancer survivor, and a retired registered dental hygienist, I also noted the importance of health care’s focus on chronic diseases, access to care, particularly specialized care; and the need for public understanding of the importance of dental health as it relates to total systemic health.
After the meeting, I stressed to Robert Ostbye the need to educate the public of the connection between oral health and the prevention of chronic inflammation, in follow up correspondence. Chronic inflammation can be related to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, autoimmune conditions and other chronic diseases. This elevates and connects the importance of dental health to one of the top priorities of attention, that of chronic disease.
There was an abundance of discussion of various health issues as they relate to our community and to the population in general. It was agreed that the topics and areas of health do not merely stand on their own as isolated concerns, but are connected in cause and effect relationships, making them all very important.
We look forward to the completion of the CHA to learn information about the general health of Collier County residents, to identify areas for health improvement, along with ways of eliminating contributing factors that impact our health, and to identify community assets and resources that can be used to improve the health of our population.
For more information, please visit www.collier.floridahealth.gov.