Oswego County Community Partners Enter Competition for National Prize

OSWEGO COUNTY – The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently announced that Oswego County was selected to continue the application process for the foundation’s “Culture of Health” award.

Oswego County is one of 39 communities, among 186 applicants across the nation, to continue to the next phase of the application process.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the nation’s largest public health philanthropy and works toward improving health and health care across America.

The “Culture of Health” designation is awarded annually to four to ten communities in the U.S.

The award recognizes communities that have created powerful partnerships and are committed to providing everyone, especially those facing the greatest challenges, with the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible.

CiTi BOCES, Farnham Family Services, Oswego Renaissance Association, the Oswego County Health Department, and Fulton Block Builders worked together to develop the first phase of the application.

They highlighted several advancements that have been made in recent years directed to improve the health of all people in the county.

Linda Eagan, special project coordinator for the Oswego County Health Department, leads the application project.

“The goal of Oswego County’s health-related partnership is to create a new ‘culture of health’ in the county,” said Eagan. “The first application highlighted four achievements in Oswego County in recent years that demonstrate sustainable change driven by progressive policies and programs that positively impact health.”

The projects include various programs that enhance students’ educational achievements from kindergartners to high school seniors; new services to break down barriers that prohibited opioid victims from accessing treatment and consultations; community enhancement projects in Fulton and Oswego; and a tobacco smoking cessation program throughout the county.

“Individuals with more education live longer, healthier lives than those with less education, and their children are more likely to thrive,” said Roseann Bayne, assistant superintendent for instruction at CiTi BOCES. “Across the U.S., there are large gaps in educational attainment between people who live in the least healthy counties and those in the healthiest counties.”

Bayne said that Oswego County educational systems are embracing a “Culture of Health for All” by prioritizing educational funding and collaborating to best meet the needs of students.

The county school systems, businesses, higher education and policy makers have collaborated on many initiatives to improve high school completion rates and to target educational efforts towards the specific employment and health needs of the region.

Behavioral health, mental health and physical health are closely connected and play a major role in people’s ability to maintain good physical health.

Community leaders and partners have demonstrated a commitment to improve behavioral health and leverage the community’s strengths to be successful.

“I am so proud to live in a county that recognizes and embraces this concept,” said Eric Bresee, executive director of Farnham. “For instance, the first opioid treatment program within the county was initiated and barriers to access this high demand program were reduced. All the while, an innovative peer support program was implemented. These are initiatives that enhance our entire community.”

Research has shown that how well and how long people live are determined by where they live.

“In our communities, we should create conditions that enable us to live the healthiest life possible,” said Paul Stewart, executive director of the Oswego Renaissance Association. “People with greater social support, less isolation, and greater interpersonal trust live longer and healthier lives than those who are socially isolated. Communities richer in social connections provide residents with greater access to support and resources than those that are less tightly knit. By building neighborly relationships that foster community through the actions of residents taking effective control of their neighborhoods, we, as a community, are strategizing and acting with intention to support all residents.”

Eagan noted that partners in the first phase of the “Culture of Health” competition have learned a great deal during the process and are proud to be selected to move on to the next level of competition.

They plan to reach out to other agencies and individuals as they continue to move forward in the application process.

“By coming together to review data and collectively identify priorities, by creating partnerships that target key populations and implementing long-term, research-based strategies, and by engaging community members and building community health improvement initiatives at all levels, Oswego County communities can and will sustain their collective efforts. Eventually every resident will have equal opportunities to thrive,” said Eagan.

For more information on how to become involved in the process, contact Brenda Hillman at the Oswego County Health Department, weekdays, phone 315-349-3540.