By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY - The Martin County Health Collaborative has completed a four-year project to gage the needs of Martin County residents.
The group consists of more than 25 partners, including United Way, the county's health department, the Children's Services Council, Martin Health System, the Council on Aging and the board of county commissioners.
This month it completed its "community health improvement plan," which includes residents' feedback and will serve as a blue print for creating strategies that guide health initiatives across the county.
"The whole process is ongoing," said Mark Chittum, facilitator for the Martin County Health Collaborative.
"We see the plan as the basis for doing specific projects that would then improve the health of residents in Martin County."
The plan identifies three target areas: spreading the word about services available to residents, increasing access to care for patients with mental health illnesses and substance abuse and making primary care services readily available.
The next step, the collaborative said, was allowing its subcommittees to begin addressing each issue.
One key point emerging is a joint effort to battle obesity. The group is working to gain funding for a summit next spring.
"We would like to get all the players together in Martin County to ensure everybody is working toward the same goal," Mr. Chittum said.
The main aim is to ensure the best use of resources and take steps so the groups work in tandem, instead of duplicating each other's efforts.
"I'm not sure that they're all aware of what everybody is doing, so we want to ensure we're all working together," Mr. Chittum said.
A second priority involves spreading the word about the availability of state and federally funded insurance for children. Many area parents don't know their children qualify for the program, so the collaborative wants to increase awareness of the service.
"This is a good opportunity. It is an ongoing dialogue between the community and Martin County. If we have success, we will continue to address different issues," Mr. Chittum said. "Overall, Martin County is a healthy community, but we can be better."