The Healthy Central Georgia Initiative has brought about significant outcomes in the area of smoke free living by educating the community and Macon politicians on the importance of policy changes to ensure residents are not unnecessarily exposed to second hand smoke. These activities resulted in the passage of an ordinance by the Macon City Council to ban smoking in public buildings and restaurants including bars and night clubs. Although the ordinance was ultimately vetoed by the Mayor, during the course of these activities, we obtained the commitment of several local night clubs to voluntarily adopt a smoke free policy.
The Mulberry Street Farmers Market was founded in partnership with the city of Macon and local organizations. This market offers locally grown produce, dairy products, and meat to a wide cross section of central Georgia. The market has also been extremely successful in helping low income families improve their diets due to a partnership with Wholesome Wave of Georgia, which offers a $1 to $1 match on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP / EBT) transactions at the market. Low income families in central Georgia have received approximately $20,000 of fresh, nutritious, local farm food items in the first year alone. In addition, during the first year, the market has provided over $250,000 in nutritious food items to cash, credit, and debit card customers.
Further, in partnership with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we began the Strong 4 Life program in central Georgia in early 2011. This program has resulted in several community events including Central Georgia Unplugged, a day of family friendly, “unplugged” activities designed to encourage families to incorporate family physical activity into their daily life, community biking events, and soap box derbies. Additionally, in partnership with Mid Georgia Ambulance, we have converted a donated ambulance into “The Veggie Van,” which is used as an educational tool and mobile classroom to educate students about the importance of proper nutrition and physical activity. We have also been involved in Farm to School activities in Bibb County and are currently working in partnership with the Peach County School System to bring Farm to School activities to Peach County.
Preventive services and screening have been a corner stone of CHW’s programming since its inception. Through our donated care and care management programs, we ensure that uninsured residents of Central Georgia receive access to not only clinical screening procedures, but also preventive interventions. We have also been awarded multiple grants, including Susan G. Komen for the Cure grants and Georgia Access, Care, Treatment, Services (ACTS) grants, to secure thousands of mammograms, prostate screenings, digital rectal exams, colonoscopies, pap tests, and other preventative services.
In addition, as the local sub-grantee of the Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center (HITREC) Program, CHW has directly provided education and technical assistance, in the selection, implementation, and Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, to over 600 primary care providers in a 46 county area of Georgia. Through more effective use of EHR systems, providers are able to deliver higher quality; evidence based preventative and other healthcare services. To date, we have enabled approximately 200 healthcare providers to demonstrate Meaningful Use of their EHR systems.
Through our work organizing and the Central Georgia Regional Health Summit (CGRHS) and leading the associated county working group meetings in each of the seven outlined counties, we have been able to identify several specific areas of need in improving the physical environment of local communities that we serve. For example, based on the recommendation of the Crawford County working group, we were able to obtain a mini-grant that lead to the construction of a walking trail in Crawford County, which has been widely utilized since its construction in 2011.
In partnership with the Medical Center of Central Georgia, CHW provides utilization management for MCCG’s indigent care program, Care Partners, through behavioral counseling. In this role, we employ a licensed therapist, to provide motivational interviewing, medical psychotherapy, and crisis intervention for approximately 200 patients at any given time. Patients rotate on and off of the therapists caseload based on medical necessity and compliance; however, once referred, each patient’s health status, key clinical indicators, and utilization history is tracked for 2 years. This data shows a 70% decrease in emergency services; a 1.7 point reduction in A1C scores, an average reduction in systolic blood pressure of 14.2 and an average reduction in diastolic blood pressure of 8.9 over a two year period. This innovative approach of addressing the emotional health of clients as well as physical health has clearly demonstrated not only improvements in emotional health, but also significant impacts on physical health and associated healthcare costs.