Representatives of health, nutrition and wellness from across Summit County sat down to a healthy lunch to brainstorm goals for the Summit County Health Assessment at a PANTS coalition meeting Thursday.
The Physical Activity and Nutrition Team of the Summit (PANTS) advocates healthy eating and active lifestyles within the Summit County community. The purpose of Thursday's meeting was to specifically focus on the need to create manageable goals that can be used to support the Summit County strategic health plan.
"It's about sharing and expanding on the resources and activities that are already happening, and sharing ideas and helping each other," said Julie Draguns, chief financial officer at High Country Healthcare and PANTS member.
The health plan comes from the results of the Summit County Health Assessment Survey conducted in 2012. Research for the survey was done by means of telephone surveys and focus groups in English and Spanish, an online survey and key informant surveys. The key informants surveyed included county physicians, health service providers and members of community nonprofits.
The state mandates that communities must conduct these health assessment surveys every five years. Currently, counties across Colorado are preparing their own individual health plans and have submitted the results of the assessments to the state government. These results will be compiled to form the statewide Public Health Improvement Plan.
Summit County identified four priority areas of focus for its health plan - behavioral health and substance abuse, access to health care, injury prevention and nutrition and physical activity. These were chosen based on needs in the community as represented by the survey results.
After a January meeting discussing the health assessment survey results and identifying the four key areas, Summit County professionals broke into four groups to tackle each of the priorities. PANTS, with the help of others, is taking on the aspect of nutrition and physical activity, working with the general goal that "by 2020, there will be expanded options for physical activity and improved access to and awareness of nutritional food."
The first step discussed by Thursday's meeting group was to work on raising awareness of the PANTS coalition and its programs, which include promoting wellness in schools and workplaces throughout Summit County.
"We've already had some great successes with the (PANTS) coalition like the community gardens," said Renee Rogers, fitness coordinator for the town of Silverthorne.
Walkability and physical activity played a large part in the discussion, with suggestions for improving the trails around Summit County or adding to them to encourage people to get out and exercise more. Events like walk or bike to school days were brought up as potential ideas, along with challenges to such programs such as lack of proper sidewalks, wide enough roads and other safety issues.
Wellness in the work place was discussed as well, with members brainstorming what kind of program could be implemented and how. Ideas included walking meetings, catering healthy meeting lunches and offering employees workout opportunities or on-site facilities during the workday.
"I don't know the exact numbers, but I know that over the last five years, even though we're still pretty lean, comparatively, our obesity and overweight rates are growing," Draguns said. "So it's critical to reduce that trend and prevent and reverse diabetes, high blood pressure, and allow people to live a healthier life."
One of the reasons the unhealthy problem persists may be the effort required to exercise and plan nutrition.
"It's a lifestyle change," said Claudine Norden, a life and fitness coach in Silverthorne. People know they should eat more healthily and exercise, but they're busy and planning healthy snacks and lunch takes time.
Despite the challenges, the group seemed positive about its ability to manage the goals set forth by the task force.
"I'm pretty excited about where we are," Draguns said. "I think this is a testament to the passion of the people in Summit County. ... The county has just a great population of community-minded and health-minded people."
Each of the health plan priority task forces must come up with a list of SMART goals by May 1. The acronym SMART refers to goals that are specific, measurable, attainable and realistic in the timeline. More meetings regarding the strategic health plan will take place in April.