After one full year of work by the Fort Smith Community Health Council to improve health care access and outcomes, Sebastian County moved from an overall rank of 19 to 13 among Arkansas’ 75 counties according to a national health analysis known as the County Rankings & Roadmaps.
The roadmap project is managed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and can be accessed at this link. Crawford County moved from 27 to 26. Benton, Saline and Washington counties have ranked 1, 2, 3, respectively, in the past two reporting years.
Rankings are based on health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Sebastian County improved from 19 to 13 in health outcomes, which address length of life and quality of life. Crawford County moved from 27 to 26.
The Fort Smith Community Health Council was formed in August 2015 by the Mercy health system in the Fort Smith metro. Hospital officials worked with human service agencies, educators and others to discuss community health. Early meetings resulted in the beginning of a partnership whose first goal was to apply to the coaching program, according to a Mercy statement. Ericka Burroughs-Girardi was named the community health coach. The health council was selected in 2016 to participate in the Roadmaps to Health coaching program, which provides direct support to help communities strengthen their capacity to build a culture of health, according to the foundation.
Burroughs-Girardi said the council does not take full credit for the improvements, but is something upon which to build.
“The health council can’t take all of the credit, but the increases can serve to inspire council members and the community to keep working to push the needle in a positive direction,” noted the Mercy statement.
Community Health Council Chair Mike Barr, a Mercy Hospital Board member and president of Fort Smith-based WeatherBarr WIndows & Doors, said in the statement the work will continue.
“The rise in the county Rankings is very encouraging for our region. While there is still plenty of work to do, the improvement is significant and reinforces that good things are happening within the health of our communities,” he said. “The Fort Smith Community Health Council is excited not only about improvement in the Rankings but also continuing to work with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The council is working hard to identify and create impact in our community health and we hope to see these kinds of improvements continuing in the near future.”
In clinical care, Sebastian County was ranked 5th both years, and in socio-economic factors improved from 32 to 25. Crawford County ranked 40 in clinical care, better than the 47 in 2016. In socio-economic factors the county ranked 11 in both years.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson also praised the region for improvements in the health scores.
“Congratulations to Sebastian County for increasing its score in the latest health report. By their example, the residents of Sebastian County are showing Arkansans that it is possible to make good lifestyle choices and improve our health. I am grateful to the leaders of the Fort Smith Community Health Council for their work in this important area,” Gov. Hutchinson noted in a statement to Talk Business & Politics.
Burroughs-Girardi will continue her work with the Fort Smith Community Health Council through August.
“This is one of the most caring teams I have ever coached. They really do care about what happens to the children. It’s nice to see people so engaged in this work because it’s part of their personal mission to do good,” she said.
Members of the Fort Smith Community Health Council advisory team are: Jo Wester, director of the Sebastian County Health Department; Ken Kupchick, former regional food bank director; Mike Barr, president, Weather Barr Windows and Door; Norma Nelson, coordinator of Valor Y Esperanza, Mercy Fort Smith; Martin Schreiber, vice president of mission, Mercy Fort Smith; Samantha Cole, director of community health, Mercy Fort Smith; Pat Morris, medical librarian, Mercy Fort Smith; and Cristelyn Roebuck, coordinator of community health, Mercy Fort Smith. Overall, the group represents 42 community organizations, according to Mercy.
Following are the top 10 counties on overall ranking for the previous two reporting years.