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An evaluation of Rock County’s last three-year community health improvement plan shows the county made strides in improving obesity, oral health, behavioral health and health equity among residents.

County health officials are now seeking public input to complete a new assessment, which happens every three to five years, according to a news release.

Faleasha Gallagher, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public health at UW-Madison, presented the county’s 2017-20 evaluation report Wednesday. Gallagher completed the report as a capstone project for her graduate degree program.

The community health assessment outlines health priorities that guide programming and decision-making by the Health Equity Alliance of Rock County and the Rock County Public Health Department.

The organizations get feedback through surveys and community conversations traditionally hosted at locations across the county.

The 2017-20 community health improvement plan sparked initiatives addressing the health priorities of obesity, oral health, behavioral health and health equity, Gallagher said.

Health equity

Two organizations in Rock County participated in a pilot program that assessed cultural and linguistic differences within the organizations, Gallagher said.

The assessment can help eliminate disparities by identifying ways to improve the flow of information and resources to people with cultural or language barriers, Gallagher said.

There is room to expand the program, she said.

Behavioral health

Two initiatives—place of last drink reporting and medication-assisted treatment peer specialists—have been implemented to help reduce substance abuse issues, Gallagher said.

Place of last drink reporting requires police officers to ask people arrested on intoxicated-driving offenses to share where they consumed their last alcoholic beverage. That information is shared with businesses to identify patterns and find where overserving might occur, Gallgher said.

The reporting program started in Janesville and has since expanded to every Rock County municipality.

A peer specialist program for people in medication-assisted treatment pairs people with others who have recovered from substance abuse problems and can offer support.

Data shows improvement in overdose numbers from 2017 to 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for some peer specialists to continue following up with partners, Gallagher said.

Obesity

Six food pantries in Rock County have revised policies, updated food displays and begun providing recipe cards with nutritious offerings to clients who need food assistance through the Safe and Healthy Food Pantry program, Gallagher said.

The program slowly helps improve nutrition for people who rely on food pantries, which often are manned by volunteers, she said.

A healthy schools initiative gave grants to six schools so they could improve exercise and nutritious food programs.

Oral health

A new Seal-a-Smile program was implemented in schools to apply sealant on children’s teeth, which prevents cavities, Gallagher said.

Adults’ access to dental programs improved as HealthNet of Rock County began accepting Medicaid for dental patients and Community Health Systems updated dental services, she said.

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