The recent launch of Healthy Montgomery, a website designed to track county health trends in comparison to state and national data, is paving the way in uniting health professionals and community residents.
The projected goal? Simple really -- the answer’s an informed, healthier community.
According to Colleen Ryan-Smith, senior epidemiologist of Montgomery County Health and Human Services, the site was developed to gather information based on a variety of factors influential on public health.
“The Healthy Montgomery website has been developed as a one-stop source of population-based data and information about community health and the social and environmental determinants of health, such as socio-economic status, social isolation, housing, availability of healthy foods and air quality in Montgomery County and healthy communities in general,” she said.
To obtain specific health-related information, individuals can search the website, www.healthymontgomery.org, for a variety of health topics to access local programs, events and other available community resources.
If you’re interested in viewing data and statistics on mental health and mental disorders, for instance, check out the information listed under the topics tab, located on the left-hand side of the page.
“Having a portal that combines the latest news, the events in our community, the most current data, best practices, as well as programs and services -- all organized by topic areas…make it easy for the user to connect a need with possible solutions,” stated Senior Health Planner Ruth Martin of Montgomery County Health and Human Services.
When accessing the site, each topic-specific page can be navigated according to five subsections: indicators, news, promising practices, infoMontgomery resources and national reports. Opt to read up on a variety of topics stemming from mental health, practices designed to prevent teen suicide or national surveys pertaining to drug use.
Should one be seeking resources related to mental health, like 24-hour crisis hotlines, the infoMontgomery resources section provides a collation of data at the convenience of a mouse click.
The indicator tab is an additional useful tool in that it displays data relative to mental health, such as “Self-Reported Diagnosis of Depression.” According to the figures, over 16.8 percent of adults report having been diagnosed with a depressive disorder, ranking the county in the 25th to 50th percentile (the medium quartile) of the state with reported incidents.
Comparison of Montgomery’s data to other counties in the state, as well as to those in the nation, is crucial in providing officials a data-based report card to see areas in which the county takes top honor or, contrarily, specific factors calling for improvement.
“Comparisons provide perspective -- we see our achievements, challenges, areas to focus and get a context for the issues we experience when we see our values in relation to other parts of Maryland or the U.S.,” said Ryan-Smith.
The site is further crucial in providing community partners with information to target programs and services in need of implementation, as well as the ability of community health leaders to monitor the impact of those programs. In this sense, government and public health officials are better able to project where oftentimes scarce financial resources should be funneled.
Martin additionally explains that the site targets multiple sectors of community members, including residents, businesses, schools and health organizations -- basically, she points out, “anyone who can benefit from population-based health and well-being data [and] social determinants of health data.”
“Based on the needs assessment and priority-setting process described above, both public and private partners in the community health improvement process will collectively implement action plans to promote resident health, taking into consideration extent programs, services and activities,” added Ryan-Smith.
At the end of the day, community health leaders are urging residents to use Healthy Montgomery as a platform on which to gain knowledge and simultaneously voice their needs.
“Informed residents," Martin concluded, "are their own best health advocates.”