By Jeffery Smith jsmith@the-leader.com

BATH - A three-year plan geared to improve current health problems in Steuben County and increase residential health will start being implemented in early January.

Darlene Smith, director of Steuben County Public Health, said the Community Health Improvement Plan results are based on information from 10 different focus groups throughout Steuben County.

The Smart Steuben worked together to identify three priority areas the community should focus its public health efforts:

Smith said the three focused areas are decreasing obesity in children and adults, decrease hypertension and heart disease and increase early childhood health.

Priority areas are:

n Prevent childhood obesity through early child care and schools. Emphasis on increasing the number of schools with comprehensive and strong local school wellness policies and assist schools in developing wellness committees.

n Expand the role of healthcare, health service providers and insurers in obesity prevention. Emphasis on recruiting hospital participation in quality improvement efforts to increase breastfeeding exclusivity at discharge.

n Expand the role of public and private employees in obesity prevention. Emphasis on implementing nutrition and beverage standards in public institutions, worksites and other key locations.

n Prevent initiation of tobacco by youth and young adults, especially among low SES populations. Emphasis on decreasing availability and increase price of tobacco products.

n Eliminate exposure to second-hand smoke. Emphasis on encouraging adoption of smoke-free policies in public and private operated housing.

n Promote use of evidence-based care to manage chronic diseases. Emphasis on participation in regional blood pressure registry.

- Promote culturally relevant chronic disease self-management education. Emphasis on promoting the use of evidence-based interventions to prevent or manage chronic diseases.

n Reduce premature birth. Emphasis on providing evidence-based home visiting and community health work program models to provide enhanced support to assist women in getting health insurance, engaging in healthcare services, securing basic needs assistance and practicing healthy behaviors.

“The first two areas are the same as the last round, which is done every three years, decreasing obesity in children and adults as well as decreasing hypertension and heart disease,” Smith said. “The third is increasing early childhood health. They are all very important.”

Steuben County Legislator Hilda Lando, D-Corning, said she was hoping the third area focused on would be opiate-controlled substance.

“I thought it might rise to the top,” Smith said. “But when they applied that formula it wasn’t.”

“I can’t believe it didn’t, “ Lando said. “I know the magnitude of the problem."

Smith said the plan is designed to be a broad, strategic framework for future community health initiatives.

“We have three years to get this done and move the needle,” Smith said. “The plan is state mandated for all health departments and run every three years.”