Officials review county’s pressing healthcare issues

Healthcare professionals representing virtually every healthcare provider in Oswego County gathered recently at the American Foundry to review and discuss the most pressing health issues that exist in our county.

Facilitated by Danielle Wert, coordinator of the Rural Health Network of Oswego County, the event featured presentations from Dan Dey, chief executive officer of Northern Oswego County Health Services, Jiancheng Huang, public health director for the Oswego County Health Department, and Jeff Coakley, vice president for Strategic Services at Oswego Health.

Dey, who also serves as chair for the Rural Health Network’s advisory board, spoke of the role the Rural Health Network plays regarding health services in Oswego County.

“Sponsored by the state Department  of Health, the Rural Health Network of Oswego County is a collaboration of healthcare providers, human service agencies, health education services, and political leaders whose mission is to improve the quality, affordability, and availability of health care services in Oswego County by focusing key resources to address specific health care priorities and to strengthen the local health care system,” Dey said.

Dey said while Oswego County does have its challenges, the level of primary care providers and resources is one of the highest of any rural community in the country and the Rural Health Network is working to continue to retain and expose those resources.

Huang and Coakley echoed those remarks and outlined many of those challenges when they shared their respective health needs assessment results and community service plans.

According the results of the Oswego County Health Department’s health assessment, Oswego County’s risky health behaviors have resulted in higher than average rates than surrounding counties and the state for a number of health issues including; incidence of cancer, cancer related deaths, obesity, smoking, diabetes, and suicide.

All significant challenges, but Huang said they are challenges that can be met.

“Based on our physician to population ratio, doctors and other healthcare providers in Oswego County are working harder than those in other counties throughout the state,” Huang said.

“We and the other members of the Rural Health Network understand the challenges we are facing and are working to introduce new practices and programs,” he said. “Health is determined by where and how we live, work, study, and play.  We must establish initiatives with a goal of engaging community members and lowering the rate of risky health behaviors in Oswego County.”

One of these initiatives is the Oswego County Primary Care Collaborative, comprised of Oswego Health, Oswego County Opportunities, a nonprofit community action agency offering more than 50 human service programs, and Northern Oswego County Health Services.

Coakley said the collaborative is working to ensure that primary care services will remain available in Oswego County for the foreseeable future.

“Previously, the three health partners collectively operated six primary care clinics,” Coakley said “During the past year, these centers transitioned to NOCHSI, which can operate them more efficiently and with financial stability.

“This collaboration was recognized as the Outstanding Rural Health Program of the Year by the New York State Association for Rural Health at its annual meeting in September,” Coakley said. “In addition, individuals from the three partnering organizations were honored as Healthcare Workers of the Year.”

Moving forward, partners in the Rural Health Network will expand their efforts of developing partnerships, coordinating resources, implementing programs and informing and educating the public in an effort to lower the risky health behaviors and reduce the rate of chronic diseases in Oswego County.

“We are fortunate to have a very robust Rural Health Network in Oswego County.  We have 35 active network member organizations and 10 subcommittees that meet monthly,” Wert said.

“The network membership represents virtually every aspect of healthcare, and our members are committed to improving the delivery of and access to quality and affordable health care in Oswego County and contiguous areas,” she said.

For more information on the Rural Health Network, go to www.rhnow.org

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