A Holistic Approach to Building A Healthier District

A Nebraska Health Department Demonstrates Transparency, Collaboration, and Commitment

Is there a way to do strategic planning that is transparent, demonstrates commitment to communities served, and builds relationships with the various community partners and leaders that are critical collaborators with a health department? Is there a way to tap into all the great data already collected by served communities to create a picture of current opportunities and establish a framework that increases community health? Working with S&G Endeavors, Two Rivers Public Health Department used a collaborative planning process that increased community ownership and commitment to creating a healthier district.

The background

Two Rivers Public Health Department serves a seven-county district, which represents a population of 96,000. The Health Department manages a number of programs that are designed to improve overall community health as well as ensure the district is prepared to respond to unanticipated emergencies.

The dynamics of the district are challenging from place to place, requiring different approaches in differing locations; for example, an approach that works in the largest city of Kearney (33,500 people with little diversity in race and a higher median income) needs reconfigured when applied to a rural community or the city of Lexington (10,000 people with lower median income and a diverse racial makeup). “We knew that using a collaborative planning process that built on existing data, didn’t reinvent the wheel, engaged our partners, and allowed us to respond to the varying dynamics of our district was something we needed. The collaborative Engaged Change™process, facilitated by S&G Endeavors, helped us do just that,” says Laura Steele, Assistant Director for the health department.

The Approach—Planning Collaborative Action and Increasing Ownership

S&G Endeavors utilizes Engaged Change™ to guide each of our clients in strategic or community planning. By Mapping the process, engaging a design team, accelerating the change, and transitioning to action, clients are able to use a process that grows the organization’s capacity, develops leaders, and creates collaborative-driven action that is owned and supported more effectively by the communities served.

For Two Rivers Public Health Department, the process kicked off in March, with two consecutive meetings of the design team (board and staff that provided representation from various counties, professions, and perspectives). The design team crafted the planning approach, identified questions of interest (for surveys, interviews, and focus groups), and ways to include various communities in the process. “Fortunately, we identified early in the process that we had a significant accumulation of relevant data that our communities had already collected over the past years,” remarked Jeremy Eschliman, Director of the Health Department. “We were able to tap into this data to build a collective picture of needs and opportunities across the district as well as develop a clearer picture of desires from the surveys and 40 direct interviews with various stakeholders.”

Building on this fully developed picture, the board and staff invited various members of the community to join them in a strategy session (held in June 2018), where they reviewed the data, coalesced around a strategic framework to guide the health department, and created draft action plans to help the Health Department and communities succeed in achieving their defined vision.

Based on gathered perspectives and feedback from the meeting in June, the strategy for the health department has now been drafted and staff is seeking a final round of feedback by directly visiting various events around the district. This approach ensures that the community will own the plans created and that partnerships are built to help make the strategy for a healthier district a success.

“Working with S&G and the engaging process they use with their clients,” says Eschliman, “allowed us to directly and efficiently tap into the wisdom and desires of the district, helping us create a more holistic strategy to guide us for the coming years. The S&G professionalism, excitement, and personal commitment to meet us where we are was a catalyst to ensuring that we knew what our communities needed and we knew how to position the health department to best serve the diverse people of our district.”

Click here to check out Two Rivers Public Health Department’s Strategy and leave your comments for their review.

For more on the process used or if you’re considering a similar process to help your health department create a healthier district, contact S&G Endeavors for a consultation.

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