Seneca County Health Alliance had its quarterly meeting last week, with nine members in attendance. The agenda included a financial report and updates on implementation of the group's strategic plan to address four key community issues based on the results of the 2013 Health Assessment. The alliance mapped out a three-year action plan that is about to conclude its first year. The goals for year one are due by Oct. 1.
In looking ahead to the next health assessment, Nancy Cochran suggested adding questions for birth through age 11 to collect data specific for that group. There would be an extra cost for this addition, so the alliance must decide whether to pursue that option.
Cochran said her stock of 50 printed copies of the assessment has been given out. The only copies left are on disc. The Mental Health and Recovery Services website has information on obtaining a copy.
Cochran reviewed the four target areas: decrease obesity for all ages; increase preventive health; decrease mental health issues for all ages; and decrease substance abuse for all ages.
Cochran said the obesity charts from 1980 and every year since then have shown increases, across the nation. The charts start out at less than 5 percent, but the most recent is about 35 percent.
She said members of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, who work with youth, are reporting obesity in children has leveled off.
Bev Funkhouser of Fostoria ProMedica Hospital reported the hospital has hired a different vendor provider and changed its menu choices in the cafeteria. The calorie counts are posted for each item, and beverage choices are limited to water, juice and coffee. She said employees and visitors can bring their own soda, but they can't buy it at the hospital.
"None of the ProMedica facilities offer the sugar-laden beverages," she added.
ProMedica also has devised an interactive board game on maintaining good health that has been presented to 74 children at a vacation bible school and at Feed My Kids lunches in Fostoria. It covers nutrition, exercise, decreasing media time, sleep needs and other topics.
Laura Bogard from the Seneca County General Health District said the department has been giving presentations to first-grade students in Tiffin and county schools. The program includes introducing children to fresh produce.
Bogard said some children had never seen a whole pineapple nor had they tasted the fresh versions of some fruits and vegetables.
The health district also is offering training for pre-school and daycare staff to provide healthy snacks and promote drinking more water. The effort is aimed at reducing cases of Type 2 diabetes in children.
"In the 22 years I've worked in public health, I've learned we've got to educate kids younger. ... we can make a much bigger difference by starting with younger kids," Bogard said.
As a side note, Bogard told the group funds for programs to reduce teen pregnancy have been exhausted. The new focus is on lowering infant mortality. Ohio is one of the worst states for deaths among children 1 year and younger.
Funkhouser and Bogard expressed concern about pharmacies offering flu shots in August. The vaccine is good for about six months, so people should wait until October to be protected for the entire flu season.
Funkhouser said she would like area hospitals to collaborate on a press release for public education.
"We often see confirmed flu cases in late spring," Bogard said.
The health department has started asking clients when they received their flu shots. Funkhouser said the Fostoria hospital gives clients an updated flu vaccine fact sheet. If people are aware of the facts, perhaps the number of flu cases could be reduced, she said.
Cochran said news articles associating flu vaccines with autism may have discouraged some residents from getting the shot. Bogard emphasized the need for the public to get the facts from reliable sources.
Recent outbreaks of mumps and measles highlight the need for vaccines, she said. Even polio, which had been eradicated in the U.S., is on the rise as travelers carry it into the country.
"People believe these diseases are no longer out there anymore, but they are," Bogard said.
Vaccine education will continue to get the public protected. Bogard said people can get the shingles vaccine at the health department, but they must schedule an appointment.
Mirceau Handru spoke about the mini-grant the Mental Health and Recovery Services board received earlier this year. MHRS used the grant to get teachers trained in suicide prevention.
Only two schools participated, partly because of the high number of calamity days taken this year. Teachers could complete a free one-hour online training in recognizing signs of mental illness that could lead to suicide.
Handru said an educational event for the public is being planned for the fall. Cochran said the Mental Health First Aid program had 19 participants so far.
MHRS is trying to get the LifeSkills program into all schools in Seneca County. Cochran said levy dollars are being used to provide training. The program teaches self-control and decision making.
Connor said probate and juvenile court Judge Jay Meyer is meeting with young parents on a weekly basis and sending counselors into their homes. The PREP program for teens in foster care is being used to prepare them for adulthood and independence.
Cochran spoke about training CARSA is providing for servers of alcoholic drinks. The training emphasizes servers' responsibilities to uphold age limits and to stop serving impaired consumers. Servers are advised to encourage patrons to use SCAT to get home safely.
The Health Alliance next meets at 9 a.m. Oct. 29 at MHRS's new location, 1200 N. SR 53, next to Tiffin Moose.