The Carter County Health Department has a plan of action. The department is currently working on MAPPing Carter County's community health and will soon have all the pieces needed to produce a Community Health Improvement Plan, or CHIP.
MAPP, which stands for Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships, is much more than judging a community's physical health. While the Carter County Health Department is spearheading the process, the final product will include pertinent information for nearly every aspect of Carter County, from public health and mental health to public safety and progressive programs.
"We've done things like this in the past, but this is much more than a health department thing," said Mendy Spohn, Carter County Health Department Administrator. "We're able to take out the unneeded pieces from some of those other surveys and other assessment programs and put them in a comprehensive plan that will encompass the entire community's health and day-to-day living experience."
There have already been several surveys and assessments taken in other departments, but now, the health department is focusing on community themes and strengths via a questionnaire.
"The survey is very important to our assessment," said Kristi Combes, Nutrition and Fitness Coordinator for the Carter County Health Department. "We want people from all different demographics to take part in the survey because we want to know about the way of life from all aspects of the communities."
By that, Combes means that more than community leaders are needed to make the survey truly comprehensive and all-encompassing.
"We want to know what issues there are, and different demographics might have different issues," she said.
The survey is available at all Carter County Health Department locations and online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/CarterCountyThemes. It includes a very broad array of questions, beginning with general information such as age, gender, zip code, do you work in Carter County, etc. Some of the more telling questions include asking about a person's top two or three concerns regarding public safety, issues within the county, what makes a person proud to live in Carter County and if there are adequate care services available for certain demographics.
Spohn and Combes said assessments such as this one have been conducted other places nationally that have seen success and improvement in their communities. In Oklahoma, Comanche and Cleveland Counties have both completed the surveys and have begun enacting some of the programs set in place to help improve community health.
"When the process is finished, we will take the top concerns and begin developing programs to help these areas," Spohn said. "They may not be in anyone department, but that's the point of this assessment. It's not just for us, it's for the entire community."
The Carter County Health Department will use this assessment as part of its upcoming accreditation process, but other departments, programs and community entities can benefit.
"Any agency or organization in Carter County will be able to use the CHIP," Combes said. "It will not belong to just one agency."
Spohn also pointed out that this won't function as other assessment programs do either. It will be an all-encompassing "plan of action" for the entire city. Organizations that tackle issues listed in the CHIP will be subject to regular updates to make sure the programs put in place are doing what they are intended. Organizations can use the CHIP to apply for grants to tackle certain tasks.
"It's also not just a 'check the box' type of deal," Spohn said. "If for some reason the leaders of an organization working on any of these goals leaves, whoever follows could walk in and use this same assessment plan to continue the work."
In April, a meeting will be conducted to compile and prioritize the information gathered from the surveys and assessment program. Most likely, the top five concerns will be identified and programs will be developed to address those issues.
"It's a public meeting, most likely in April, that people are invited to to discuss their concerns," Spohn said.
But in order for all of this to work, Combes said it is imperative that a lot of people participate in the surveys and that as many people from each demographic be involved.
"We want to make sure we have something for everyone in our communities," she said. "We need between 1,000 and 1,100 people to participate for it to be truly effective."
Spohn said she is positive that this assessment project will benefit the people of Carter County, as well as surrounding counties participating in similar survey and assessment processes.
"We've seen success from other planning efforts, but I can see this project doing a lot of things," she said. "I hate to step out and say it will solve these problems, but it will be a great tool that people can use to help put strategic plans in place, put great ideas out there and implement them so they work and help improve the community's overall health."