Good community health is an important element in economic progress and not just a trendy thing to strive for, business and health leaders said Thursday in Omaha.
Businesses increasingly are building plants and headquarters in healthy communities, they said.
“They are going to make decisions on where health is the best, where health care costs are the least,” Adi Pour, executive director of the Douglas County Health Department, said at the sixth annual Omaha Health Summit as the Community Health Improvement Plan was unveiled.
About 200 people attended the summit, overseen by Live Well Omaha and the Wellness Council of the Midlands, at the Hilton Omaha.
Mary Balluff of the Douglas County Health Department unveiled the plan’s four priorities for health and business leaders over the next three years:
The four priorities unveiled Thursday:
• Improving access to health services.
• Reducing obesity and improving nutrition.
• Addressing violence and injuries among children and adolescents.
• Increasing awareness of behavioral health problems and providing access to mental health services.
The Community Health Improvement Plan was developed over the past several months from various group meetings organized by the county health department and Live Well Omaha. They examined data, held focus groups and conducted surveys to set the priorities.
Balluff told the audience the four priorities aren’t intended to supersede efforts directed toward other community health problems, such as teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
But they are four vital areas that require attention. The planning process found, for instance, that one in three metro-area adults had trouble obtaining timely health care services over the past year. It found that two-thirds of metro-area adults and 30 percent of schoolchildren are overweight or obese.
The planning effort discovered that accidents are the leading cause of death among children 1 to 19 years old, and that suicide and homicide are the next two leading causes among teens 15 to 19. Also, it found that one in four metro-area adults reported symptoms of chronic depression.
Groups will continue to meet over the next three years to address the priorities and measure progress.
Three of the speakers at the summit — Pour, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce President David Brown and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska CEO Steve Martin — agreed that creating healthy communities makes good sense economically.
New Omaha areas such as Midtown Crossing and Aksarben Village provide appealing environments in which to live and work and attract a dynamic workforce, Martin said.
Brown said that when he left college, he was concerned only about finding a job. People today, he said, are more selective about the companies they join and the cities where they live. Firms that provide opportunities for employees to exercise, lose weight and relax, he said, get a return in more focused, energetic workers.