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Come October, Lancaster General Health will have a new three-year community health improvement plan.

The plan, to be issued in response to a recent Community Health Needs Assessment conducted in partnership with WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital and the LiveWELL Lancaster County Coalition, will provide strategies to improve obesity, substance misuse and abuse, and mental health.

“These are not simple issues to address,” said Alice Yoder, Director of Community Health at LG Health. “They result from a mix of behaviors, lifestyle, environment, economics, and more and have no quick fix – no vaccine, pill or surgical procedure.”

Instead, Yoder indicates that for the plan to work, it has to draw on different components, from education and awareness to behavioral and systems changes, and will also include public policy recommendations and environmental changes.

To fight obesity, for example, one education strategy would be to provide nutrition and fitness videos to LancasterOnline as a community resource. Systems change in this context might include increasing healthy food options in local food pantries and community meals. A policy change would be encouraging smart growth development and zoning changes that incorporate more bicycle lanes and walking paths to encourage physical activity.

“What’s different about this plan,” said Yoder, “is that it focuses on more than just healthcare, and seeks to make a strong connection between healthcare and social needs such as food, clothing and shelter.

“In order to have a significant impact we need to continue to work together with community partners to create long-lasting, positive change and healthy communities. The path to a healthy or unhealthy life is influenced by factors largely beyond someone’s control – like the neighborhood they grow up in, their, parents’ income and level of education and even the stress they experience in their daily lives.”

The plan will begin to bridge the gap between healthcare and linking individuals to non-healthcare providers for help.

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