From staff reports
The Gaston Community Healthcare Commission, an initiative of Gaston Together, hosted its fourth annual Healthy Gaston Community Forum on Nov.
8. The forum highlighted the outcomes of the Healthy Gaston initiative as well as two policy and advocacy teams developed during 2016. The Gaston County YMCA served as the Gold Event sponsor.
Meeting attendees were welcomed by Gaston Together Executive Director, Donna Lockett. Following the breakfast sponsored by CaroMont Health, Casey Blanks, Wellness Coordinator at Gaston Family Health Services, energized the group with a fit break. Andrea Stevenson, Executive Director of the Lee Institute in Charlotte, provided the keynote presentation. Stevenson encouraged participants to look outside their usual “circles” for solutions to community issues.
Veronica Feduniec, 2016 Board Chair and Gaston Family Health Services operations officer, provided an overview of the mission of the Gaston Community Healthcare Commission which serves as the convener, facilitator and catalyst for broad, cross-sector outreach to address community health awareness issues. She recognized and thanked the four Primary Funding Partners: CaroMont Health, Gaston Family Health Services, Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) and Partners Behavioral Health Management whose support made this outreach possible. The 2016 goals were to expand the Healthy Gaston initiative and develop two policy/ advocacy teams identified as Mental Health/ Substance Abuse and Walkability/Obesity.
Both policy/advocacy teams brought respective stakeholders into the process, researched issues, brainstormed possible solutions and prioritized action items.
The Mental Health/ Substance Abuse team’s annual report was presented by Dr. Todd Davis, CaroMont Health Chief Medical Officer. This team has focused their work on the opioid abuse crisis in Gaston County. They established the Gaston Controlled Substance Coalition, developing prescriber policies, treatment linkages and community education work groups. They also conducted a Continuing Medical Education workshop in October for prescribers attended by 163 participants. Event presenters were the NC State Health Director and a NC Medical Board member among others.
LaVerne Partlow, Department of Health & Human Services Program Coordinator, and Phyllis Whitworth, Belmont Central Elementary Principal, reported on behalf of the Walkability/Obesity team. They showcased the work to expand the Walk to School program at Belmont Central. This program provides a safe alternative for students who want to walk several blocks from a church parking lot to the school providing valuable physical activity to start their school day. In addition, Ms. Partlow discussed the partnership recently established between the Walkability/Obesity work group and the Gaston County Greenways Team.
The second half of the meeting was dedicated to the Healthy Gaston initiative which assists businesses, churches and schools in creating a culture of wellness within their organizations. It also recognizes them for making positive changes as they achieve different levels of the Healthy Gaston criteria. Participating organizations are encouraged to develop and implement “healthy” programming to accomplish health related goals, conduct program evaluations and of course, celebrate success!
The celebration continued with a presentation by Gazette Community Editor, Will MacDonald. The Gazette serves as the media partner for Healthy Gaston initiative. MacDonald acknowledged all 25 organizations that are active members of the initiative. He recognized three new Bronze Level Honorees: Cancer Services of Gaston County, Owens-Corning and Chemtura Corp.
The highlight of the celebration was the recognition four organizations which are the first to ever achieve the Healthy Gaston Gold Level since the beginning of the Healthy Gaston initiative. These honorees were A. B. Carter, CaroMont Health, Gaston County Government and Gaston Family Health Services, a true achievement for each of these organizations as they actually “walk the talk” with their employees.
The meeting concluded with a call to action by the chairelect, Chris Dobbins, Department of Health & Human Services director. Door prizes included a 90-day family pass donated by the YMCA and a “healthy” gift basket provided by Gaston Family Health Services. Swag bags were given to each event attendee featuring a Healthy Gaston magnet and infusion bottle along with a Gaston Outside koozie and a special one-day family pass to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, the newest Healthy Gaston organization!