The Regional Pilot in Grays Harbor County: “we need a culture shift…”

Several weeks ago, health care and community leaders in Grays Harbor County kicked off CHOICE’s Regional Pilot work sessions, aimed at focusing and driving the efforts toward an integrated health care delivery system within the five Washington State counties of Grays Harbor, Pacific, Mason, Lewis and Thurston.  In attendance were leadership from the two hospitals (Mark Reed and Grays Harbor Community), public health, mental health, and community health care, discussing what capacity building activities would “move the dial” on improving the health status of Grays Harbor County residents.

This is not the first time in Grays Harbor County that diverse health care system entities have collaborated to improve the health status of their community.  For the last several months, a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) process has been underway, engaging key players in the local health care delivery system to not only assess the health of Grays Harbor County residents, but determine efficient, effective and integrated courses of action to improve the county’s health status.  Thus, going to Grays Harbor County to discuss and plan a regional approach to health care delivery and health improvement was a natural augment.

But it wasn’t specific programs or projects or initiatives that surfaced as the most important work needing to be done to truly move toward better health; rather, the focal point was the need for a culture shift from the acceptance of mediocrity to a sense of entitlement to live healthy and vibrant lives.   Participants at the work session relayed stories of their patients and clients believing that unhealthy lifestyles and choices are “the norm,” and that good health and good health care are not things they “deserved.”  Though difficult to hear, the conversation revealed questions far more poignant than the how to design the next best program or project or initiative: what does being healthy look like at the individual and community level? And, how is a community’s culture fostered to promote this picture of better health?

Though the need for a dramatic culture shift was the main topic of discussion, it was also clear that strategies to integrate care for a more holistic and “no wrong door” approach is a preferred pilot focus for Grays Harbor County.  Coupled with this, participants expressed the need for a robust community education campaign to not only inform residents  about resources available, but how to appropriately utilize them.

Works sessions have already been conducted in Lewis and Mason counties, and Thurston is happening soon.  Stay tuned for more updates and discussion on these efforts!

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