© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Sound Health is a recurring series that airs twice each month on WGLT's Sound Ideas program.Support for Sound Health comes from Carle Health, bringing care, coverage, support, healthcare research and education to central Illinois and beyond.

Access to care, mental health and healthy living top McLean County’s health priorities

Health workers line up to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Nam Y. Huh
AP file
Health workers line up to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

A group of health experts has identified three health priorities in McLean County: access to care, behavioral health and healthy eating and active living.

In this edition of Sound Health, two members of the steering committee detail what the assessment shows and what health care, schools, social service organizations and others can do to address those priorities, as the community emerges from the COVID pandemic.

PDF: Read the Community Health Improvement Plan

Sally Gambacorta, community health director at Carle BroMenn Medical Center, explains the committee believes access to care is the most critical need.

Sally Gambacorta
Sally Gambacorta

“If you improve access to care, you are going to improve a whole plethora of health issues, whether that’s diabetes or respiratory (illnesses) or health disease,” Gambacorta said.

Some of the data is lagging, specifically when it comes to mental health, said Gambacorta, adding the COVID pandemic will likely show the current reality is much worse.

“We definitely hear that mental health issues have increased in our community and individuals trying to access care,” she said.

There are bright spots in the data. Erin Kennedy, manager of OSF St. Joseph Medical Center’s Center for Healthy Lifestyles, noted the data show some improvement in recent years. For example, food insecurity dropped from 12% to 9.5% since the last survey.

Erin Kennedy
Erin Kennedy

“We are moving in the right direction, but even 1% who has food insecurity still hurts our community,” Kennedy said. “I would love to see that number eventually get to zero percent.”

Kennedy added the third priority — healthy eating and active living — focuses on body weight and how to reduce chronic disease risk through regular physical activity, stress reduction and adequate sleep, along with other factors.

“All of this just leads up to a healthy body weight and overall well-being,” Kennedy said.

Gambacorta said addressing the priorities requires a lot of collaboration among medical providers, social service organizations, schools and others.

“It takes a village,” Gambacorta said. “It’s not something that either hospital can do on their own. It’s not something the health department or Chestnut’s Family Health Center can do on their own.”

Gambacorta noted organizations that have plans to address these health needs can seek funding through the city of Bloomington's John M. Scott Health Care Commission.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.