Sullivan County Begins Efforts to Improve Public Health and Collaboration   

(Libery, NY) - Sullivan County partners gathered as a working committee Friday, May 13 at the Government Center in Monticello to begin work on a five year strategic plan to improve the health of residents of Sullivan County. Representatives from the County Manager’s Office, Departments of Planning and Environmental Management, Human Rights Commission, Public Health, Workforce Development, the Charter Review Commission, and community partners Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), Sullivan Renaissance, Dialogue2 Change, and Sullivan Agencies Leading Together (SALT) began by reflecting on the most recent success stories and considering how to build on those activities to improve the quality of life in the county.

Two of those success stories began with county government worksite wellness initiatives and have the potential to spread across the county by way of employers and worksites. The Sullivan County Government Employees’ Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is one of those initiatives. The brainchild of the Department of Public Health, the County Manager’s Office worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the County Attorney’s Office to set up payroll deductions for employees interested in receiving weekly “shares” of farm fresh produce and meat. The shares are delivered once a week right to the County Government Center in Monticello and  at the Public Health Department  in Liberty for participating employees in the Division of Health and Family Services.

The CSA model usually requires customers to pay a lump sum of up to $600 at the beginning of the growing season, an amount that is often out of reach for working individuals and families. By setting up a system that helps employees budget the expense, the program has grown three fold over two spring/summer seasons and one winter season. After the very first season, 73% of participants said participating in the CSA increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables, and 94% said they would recommend the program to a co-worker or colleague.

Another initiative aiming to better the health of the county’s second largest employer is the County Walking Club. Sponsored by the Department of Public Health, the club challenges groups of co-workers to use their breaks to try out several walking trails or loops around county properties. The program creates a culture of peer support for wellness and incentivizes the activity with contests. Teams add up their steps and compete for small, fun prizes and bragging rights! County employees from several departments have walked a combined total of 7,181,172 steps!

The committee acknowledges there is lots of work to do but refuses to get mired down in data. “Using models and data from other communities who have been successful in improving their health, there is no doubt in my mind that if Sullivan County commits to doing some of these same things, there is nowhere to go but up in rankings”, said Sullivan County Chairman Luis Alvarez. “This committee is going to work together to make sure that every Sullivan County resident can access healthy foods, and have safe places to exercise”.

The planning efforts complement wellness activities happening throughout the county, including school districts’ wellness committees, the Rural Health Network, the expansion of Farmers’ Markets, worksite wellness initiatives, the Catskill Edible Garden Project, and many more.

There are several organizations working in collaboration on improving health in Sullivan County. For more information on how to build wellness in your worksite, school, or municipality contact the Department of Public Health at 845- 845-292-5910, Cornell Cooperative Extension at 845-292-6180 or sullivancce.org, or Sullivan Renaissance at 845-292-2445.

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