By Elana Warsen
OSCODA COUNTY – A group of citizens and service providers have teamed up to promote a healthier Oscoda County. The partnership took shape in the fall of 2014 and has been officially meeting since June, 2015 under the name Oscoda County CHOICES, which stands for Creating Healthy Outcomes by Improving, Connecting, and Empowering for Success. Partnership members include folks who live and work in Oscoda County, as well as members of human service agencies that serve Oscoda County residents’for example Munson Hospital in Grayling.
The group cites Oscoda County’ low ranking in the 2015 County Health Rankings as a call to action to improve the health of the community. The County Health Rankings study rated the health of 82 Michigan counties on many factors, such as high school graduation rate, access to health care, and behaviors such as smoking and excessive drinking. Oscoda County ranked 71 out of 82 overall.
Mio’ Jan Schleicher, certified health coach and interim committee chair for CHOICES, says that although the county’ low ranking is concerning, there is also cause for pride. ‘We ranked very high in the category of Physical Environment,’ she said. ‘We have clean air and good water.’
The group has enlisted the consultation of Community Coach Ericka Burroughs-Girardi, who will provide free guidance and resources to the members of CHOICES as they strive to address factors that, if improved, can help make the community healthier. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute is funding Burroughs-Girardi’ 12-month community coaching engagement with CHOICES.
Schleicher is confident in CHOICES’ potential to have an enduring impact on the health of the community. ‘I’m most proud of the upfront work that we did [as a committee],’ she said. ‘We took the time to establish a long-term foundation. We laid the groundwork and sought community input. We’re doing this the right way.’
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