OSWEGO, NY – Healthcare professionals representing virtually every healthcare provider in Oswego County gathered recently at the American Foundry to review and discuss the most pressing health issues that exist in our county.
Facilitated by Danielle Wert, coordinator of the Rural Health Network of Oswego County, the event featured presentations from Dan Dey, chief executive officer of Northern Oswego County Health Services, Jiancheng Huang, public health director for the Oswego County Health Department, and Jeff Coakley, vice president for Strategic Services at Oswego Health.
Dey, who also serves as chairperson for the Rural Health Network’s advisory board, spoke of the role that the Rural Health Network plays regarding health services in Oswego County.
“Sponsored by the NYS Department of Health, the Rural Health Network of Oswego County is a collaboration of healthcare providers, human service agencies, health education services, and political leaders whose mission is to improve the quality, affordability, and availability of health care services in Oswego County by focusing key resources to address specific health care priorities and to strengthen the local health care system.
NOCHSI, which is a Federally Qualified Health Center and operates six primary care practices and six school base health centers in Oswego County, is proud to be a partner in The Rural Health Network. Everything we do revolves around helping our residents,” said Dey.
Dey added that while Oswego County does have its challenges, the level of primary care providers and resources is one of the highest of any rural community in the country and that the Rural Health Network is working to continue to retain and expose those resources.
Haung and Coakley echoed those remarks and outlined many of those challenges when they shared their respective health needs assessment results and community service plans.
According the results of the Oswego County Health Department’s health assessment Oswego County’s risky health behaviors have resulted in higher than average rates than surrounding counties and the state for a number of health issues including; incidence of cancer, cancer related deaths, obesity, smoking, diabetes, and suicide.
All significant challenges, but according to Huang, they are challenges that can be met.
“Based on our physician to population ratio, doctors and other healthcare providers in Oswego County are working harder than those in other counties throughout the state. We and the other members of the Rural Health Network understand the challenges we are facing and are working to introduce new practices and programs. Health is determined by where and how we live, work, study, and play. We must establish initiatives with a goal of engaging community members and lowering the rate of risky health behaviors in Oswego County,” said Huang.
One of these initiatives is the Oswego County Primary Care Collaborative.
Comprised of Oswego Health, Oswego County Opportunities, a non-profit community action agency offering more than 50 human service programs and NOCHSI, a federally qualified health center.
According to Coakley, the collaborative is working to ensure that primary care services will remain available in Oswego County for the foreseeable future.
“Previously, the three health partners collectively operated six primary care clinics. During the past year, these centers transitioned to NOCHSI, which can operate them more efficiently and with financial stability. This collaboration was recognized as the Outstanding Rural Health Program of the Year by the New York State Association for Rural Health at its annual meeting in September. In addition, individuals from the three partnering organizations were honored as Healthcare Workers of the Year,” said Coakley.
Moving forward partners in the Rural Health Network will expand its efforts of developing partnerships, coordinating resources, implementing programs, and informing and educating the public in an effort to lower the risky health behaviors and reduce the rate of chronic diseases in Oswego County.
“We are fortunate to have a very robust Rural Health Network in Oswego County. We have 35 active Network member organizations and ten sub-committees that meet monthly. The Network membership represents virtually every aspect of healthcare, and our members are committed to improving the delivery of and access to quality and affordable health care in Oswego County and contiguous areas,” said Wert.
For more information on the Rural Health Network, its initiatives and its partner organizations visit www.rhnoc.org