Health department receives 2 awards

HANCOCK – In April, the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department released a document called the Community Health Assessment, which was an overview of the agency’s five-county coverage area. Recently the effort was recognized by a state agency and two organizations.

Guy St. Germain, health officer/executive officer for the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department in Hancock, said the Michigan Department of Community Health in Lansing presented him the Director’s Award for the work done by the health department staff and their community collaborators to create the CHA.

“I’m particularly pleased with the Director’s Award,” he said.

The director of MDCH is James Haveman, and St. Germain said the award was given to the WUPHD on Oct. 17 in Lansing during the State Premier Public Health Conference.

The CHA has the three broad themes of: impact of an aging population; effect of income and education on health; and the importance of prevention for health.

The survey, which asks questions about lifestyle, health status, and access to health care, was sent in June 2012 to 8,000 randomly selected households in the WUPHD coverage area of Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties, and it was very successful with 2,500 responses, St. Germain said.

The Director’s Award is intended to recognize specific examples of excellence in the practice of community health, St. Germain said. “That community assessment was the result of a community-wide team effort,” he said.

The CHA collaborative partners were Aspirus Grand View, Aspirus Keweenaw, Aspirus Ontonagon, Baraga County Memorial, and Portage Health hospitals, as well as Copper Country Community Mental Health Services, Gogebic County Community Mental Health Authority, and the Western Upper Peninsula Substance Abuse Services Coordinating Agency.

St. Germain said the collaborative effort was recognized also during the Oct. 17 conference with a Community Achievement Award presented by the Michigan Public Health Association and the Michigan Association for Local Public Health, which are health department professional organizations.

Angela Minicuci, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Community Health, said a panel of three people from MDCH administration consider submissions for the Director’s Awards, which have been given out for 83 years.

Submissions, which come from health departments throughout the state, are considered based on five criteria, Minicuci said. They are: contributing to a positive health status outcome; demonstrating collaboration; use of best available evidence; sustainability and being replicable; and use of new or innovative programs.

“If they meet three of the five criteria, they can submit and be eligible for an award,” she said.

St. Germain said the scope and depth of the CHA would not have been possible without the community partners.

“It’s a unique project for a small health department,” he said.

The CHA was a rigorous and scientifically-sound document, which St. Germain said still produces feedback to the health department.

“It’s been useful to a lot of organizations,” he said.

After the CHA was released, St. Germain said Haveman called him to congratulate the health department staff and collaborators and asked for several copies of the document.

“I am happy to share recognition with all our partner agencies who worked along with us produce this document of unusual scope,” he said.

St. Germain said all the people involved with creating the Community Health Assessment are grateful for the recognition of the work put into creating the CHA.

“To receive two awards related to the work is deeply gratifying and humbling,” he said.