Washington County, Tenn. sets top three health priorities

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Washington County, Tennessee’s Health Council will target three major barriers to community health in the coming years as part of a push to tackle statewide problems.

Tennessee is one of the first states in the country to launch an initiative to identify and improve health priorities at the county level, according to Jayne Harper, public information officer for Northeast Tennessee’s Regional Health Office.

“Our mission is to protect and promote the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee,” said Harper. “If you’re going to care for a population’s health you need to go upstream and look at some of the reasons for the health outcomes we’re having.”

Washington County is one of sixteen counties statewide and two in our region to set their priorities this year. Eventually, all 89 rural counties will participate in what’s being called the “County Health Assesment” initiative.

For the next three years, the county will focus on improving community violence, adverse childhood experiences, substance abuse and mental health issues.

County Health Department Director Christen Minnick said the process started in January 2019. That’s when council members began reviewing health data and digging deeper into the numbers by talking to community stakeholders.

When meetings resume in August, Minnick said council members will begin seeking additional funding avenues, programs and partnerships to make progress on their focus areas.

Besides Washington County, Hancock County was the only other Northeast Tennessee locality to set three priorities this year: Substance abuse, adverse childhood experiences and health literacy.

The other five counties are expected to announce their priorities in July of 2021.

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