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Outback Observations: Taking the Initiative for a Healthier Community

We all share the same borders here in Lake County, regardless of what community or part of the county we happen to reside.

Over the past several years, community residents began taking the initiative to assure a healthier future for one and all on two key forefronts: air quality and local health care services.

There’s a certain level of government influence involved in both, of course, as the Town of Lakeview has, for years, faced a struggle in meeting federally-mandated air quality standards related to PM 2.5 particulate matter.

As part of the federal PM Advance program, which affords a five-year period to develop an air quality management plan for meeting those aforementioned standards, a committee of local residents was assembled for the purpose of developing feasible strategies.

On the health care forefront, changes in development through the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act have led to the establishment of Coordinated Care Organizations throughout the state.  The ‘triple aim’ mission of these CCOs includes better health, better care and reduced costs for health care services.

Through the Community Health Improvement Partnership, a committee consisting of representatives throughout the entire county have developed strategies through public input on the health care needs.

These needs were determined by means of community-wide meetings held in both north and south Lake County, with specific strategies developed and prioritized by working groups focused on the subjects of physical activity, senior services, oral health and mental health.

The PM Advance committee’s work is important in that it is an attempt to circumvent the imposition of the iron-fisted letter of federal law on the Lakeview community regarding its air quality.

At the moment, the area has not been formally designated as out of compliance with federal standards, but data proves that the standards have been violated.

A formal designation would have many short and long-term effects on the community.  Most significant, of course, is the health of the citizens and in particular those with sensitive respiratory health.

In the long haul, however, economics of the community could be impacted by additional air quality restrictions for local industry.  Poor economics, studies suggest, have a direct correlation on overall health in a community.

But this is the most important point: we’re not there yet.  There’s no sense in panicking in the streets like our hair is on fire, nor is it productive to grouse about governmental regulations.  It is far better, as a community, to work to find its own solution rather than sit back and complacently let the powers determine what that solution will be.

This is the common thread of the two groups mentioned earlier.  Both consist of locals volunteering their time for the long-term good of their fellow residents.  Proactiveness is key and a trait to be admired where the benefit to the community is concerned.

Complacency and ignoring  a problem can only lead to everyone’s choices being taken away; and under those circumstances, everyone loses.

-— Ryan Bonham

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