Making Cattaraugus County Healthier

Two representatives from the mentor community of Williamson, W.V. met with several members of the Salamanca community at the Holiday Inn Express prior to the Healthy Living Consortium held in Olean March 17. A photo taken at the consortium shows (front, from left): Dr. Kevin Watkins, Cattaraugus County Public Health Director, Cathy Mackay, Cattaraugus County Department of Aging Director, Maria Arnot, Healthy in the Hills, Williamson, W. Va.; Jenny Hudson, Director of Outreach, Williamson, W. Va.; Will Maybee, clinical exercise specialist at Lionel R. John Health Center; Susan Brisky, Cattaraugus County Department of Aging. (Back, from left): Sandi Brundage, director of the Salamanca Youth Bureau, SCALE Community Champion; and Kate Ebersole, local improvement advisor for the SCALE Initiative.

SALAMANCA — Prior to the Healthy Living Consortium held in Olean March 17, two representatives from the “mentor” community of Williamson, W. Va., met with several members of the Salamanca community at Holiday Inn Express.

Coming from the Williamson Health and Wellness Center, Maria Arnot, director of Community Agriculture, and Jenny Hudson, director of outreach programs, wanted to meet people from the organizations they are working with in Salamanca.

In attendance were Sandi Brundage, director of the Salamanca Youth Center; Will Maybee, clinical exercise specialist at Lionel R. John Health Center; John Sheehan, executive director for Seneca Salamanca Chamber of Commerce; Alderman Michael J. Lonto, R-Ward 3; and Kate Ebersole, local improvement advisor for the SCALE Initiative.

Arnot and Hudson, who both work at the Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in Williamson, were invited to come and talk about their community engagement strategy with the full consortium. Arnot is in charge of community agriculture, which includes development of greater access to healthy food and food choices for Williamson citizens, such as community gardens and similar projects, and Hudson does community outreach for the FQHC.

“Williamson has an initiative called ‘Healthy in the Hills’ involving many things including improving access to healthy food, an incubator project to encourage entrepreneurs who want to set up healthy businesses and initiatives, and a whole host of other community level engagement strategies,” Ebersole said. “They won the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health award in 2014 and we have worked with them to learn more about their community outreach and engagement strategy during our time with SCALE since May of 2015.”

Speaking on behalf of the consortium, Ebersole said the county health department applied for and was awarded a SCALE (Spreading Community Accelerators through Learning and Evaluation) grant. She said this grant was awarded by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

According to Ebersole, 20 communities across the nation were given this grant and four communities were included in the grant as “mentor” communities. These mentor communities are places where they have already accomplished some great things, bringing communities together, fully engaging all citizens to help create something positive and healthier in their communities. Williamson is one.

“We are focusing on Salamanca because our SCALE evaluation team told us we really needed to focus in on one community during the SCALE grant period (May 2015 to December 2016) and they recommended Salamanca,” she said.

BRUNDAGE, DIRECTOR OF the Salamanca Youth Bureau, said Cattaraugus County applied for this, but they are focusing on Salamanca because the statistics typically skew population health in the county.

“Sadly, we just got our county health rankings and we have done a lot to collaborate, gather and work on our population health — to get information that our county health ranking has actually dropped,” she said. “It’s been very discouraging and we’re trying to just now get a feel for what that means and figure it out.”

Maybee, clinical exercise specialist at the Lionel R. John Health Center, said the Seneca population is exceptionally ill by public health status, so they are always trying to utilize different resources, gather new ideas and perspectives to help them better carry out their jobs.

“A lot of people who live in Salamanca don’t know our program exists. We’re an entire wing and currently located in the back of the building, yet for some reason that information doesn’t get funneled down through the pipeline,” he said.

Maybee said in the “well wing” at the facility are two exercise specialists, a registered dietician, a registered nurse and a certified diabetes educator. They also have optical and dental services, as well as a WIC program in the same wing.

AFTER THE CONSORTIUM, Ebersole said the presentation in Olean went well. They talked about the excitement generated in Williamson around the Culture of Health prize, the work they did beforehand to win the prize and how participants in Cattaraugus County can engage the community through celebrating the good things different people and/or organizations have done.

According to Ebersole, the Healthy Livable Community Consortium for Cattaraugus County is a coalition of organizations from throughout Cattaraugus County, and beyond. They meet quarterly in Olean and, generally, about 50-60 people attend representing a wide-variety of organizations including county government, local government, hospitals, primary care, social services, faith community, and many non-profit organizations as well.

Ebersole said there are presentations at the consortium and they often do an interactive exercise with everyone. All of it is focused on how to make Cattaraugus County a healthier place to live.

The SCALE Initiative is funded through the Cattaraugus County Department of Health and focuses on ways to reduce obesity and associated health issues such as heart disease in the county.

(This story appears in the March 24, 2016 edition of The Salamanca Press.)