On April 3rd you received your annual check-up of your community’s health -- the 2012 County Health Rankings. You’ve had a chance to review what’s going well for your community and where you are lagging behind others. But now what? What can you do to make your community a healthier place?
Since the inaugural release of the County Health Rankings in 2010, hundreds of people have contacted us to ask these questions and we’ve directed them to our Take Action cycle. It’s a simple and straightforward process. Work with other key partners, because we know solving issues like poor high school graduation rates, unemployment, excessive drinking, unhealthy air, or inadequate health care require the wisdom and resources of people from all walks of life. Gather information. Set priorities. Find the most effective approaches to address your priorities and then just do it!
One day, I was talking with a concerned citizen who wanted to lead an effort to improve health in his lowest ranking county. We turned to a commonly referenced guide and when he saw it was 170 pages long, he decided this process was far too overwhelming to pursue. Like so many simple and straightforward processes, it can be challenging to know where to start and how to keep going when you get stuck. To help you overcome these obstacles, we’ve created the Roadmaps to Health Action Center—tools and consultation to guide you along the journey toward better health for your neighborhood, town, or county.
What will I find in the Action Center? For each of the six steps in the cycle -- Work Together, Assess Needs & Resources, Focus on What’s Important, Choose Effective Policies & Programs, Act on What’s Important, and Evaluate Actions -- you will find key activities and tools. By answering a short list of Getting Started questions, you will be guided to activities and tools that are matched with your community's current progress and needs. The Action Center includes resources for those who are thinking about taking action, those who may have just started working together, and those who have some momentum but are looking for ways to enhance their efforts.
Web tools are great, but what if I have questions? Throughout the site, you will find road signs offering assistance from our team. We know it helps to have someone to consult with who can help you plan your next steps, trouble shoot when you get stuck, and motivate you when you lose energy. Our consultation can be delivered via email or telephone—whichever works best for you.
How can we learn from other communities? A new Take Action webinar series will explore practical ways to implement the cycle with your community members. Sign up here for the April 17th session that will introduce you to the series. Each month a different step in the Take Action cycle will be explored. The webinars will include community members from around the nation sharing their stories about what worked well and what didn’t and follow up discussion webinars where participants can share their own lessons learned and challenges with each other.
Aren’t there lots of websites devoted to health? Why another? Yes. The Roadmaps to Health Action Center will link you with excellent tools from many different organizations. Our goal is to organize these tools in a way that makes your community’s journey to health improvement a simple and straightforward path, accessible to all.
Whether your community is ready for small steps or giant leaps, we are here to support you as you move down the road to health. Visit us, email us, call us, and let’s all work together to build a healthier nation, county by county.
Julie Willems Van Dijk RN PhD is the deputy director of the County Health Roadmaps project at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.