Following more than a year of planning, research and community meetings, Allegheny County has released the Plan for a Healthier Allegheny (PHA), which sets priorities for health officials and partners to work on going forward.
“It’s a five-year plan that sets forth health priorities, measurable goals and strategies to reach those goals,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
The plan identifies five key areas to focus on, including access, the environment, maternal and child health, mental health and substance abuse.
“Not everybody has the kind of access that they need and that impacts the health of the region,” Fitzgerald said. “Chronic disease, health risk behaviors – things that we maybe can control but we need to do a better job of educating people as to those risk behaviors and what they are.”
Risk factors can include family history, smoking and poor nutrition, officials said.
“In terms of the environment: air quality, water quality (and) the issues around unconventional oil and gas production all fall into that category,” said Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.
The plan, said Hacker, is not etched in stone. The county will be working with more than 70 community partners including foundations, non-profit organizations, the Port Authority of Allegheny County and others. There will also be working groups meeting regularly.
“And then along the way, our intent is to continually improve our efforts, to identify what’s working and what’s not working and to really follow those metrics forward,” Hacker said.
The working groups will meet about once a quarter, she said, and will change the plan if and when changes are needed. The full PHA can be found online.