Sedgwick County Health Department director Adrienne Byrne-Lutz got a piece of surprising news this week.
The 2017 county budget restored a position to the health department that helps create a community health improvement plan.
“I didn’t expect it, and I am thrilled that this essential service and position is being reinstated into health department,” Byrne-Lutz said. “This doesn’t belong to the health department; we just lead this work, and it’s community-driven and owned.”
The community health improvement plan measures the county’s progress on key health goals and how to best meet them. Past reports have focused on things like access to care, oral health, mental health, obesity and diabetes.
The tax-funded position responsible for the county’s work was cut in the last year’s budget, much to the chagrin of public health advocates.
“I don’t know about you, but I don’t do any work without a plan,” said Becky Tuttle, the chair of the Health Alliance. “We had the void of not having a chief health strategist in the community. …That’s what’s been missing.”
Bryne-Lutz said the position would help coordinate with organizations like the Medical Society of Sedgwick County or United Way to gather and analyze the health data.
“The person in this position is going to be meeting the community partners to develop a relationship with them and will learn what the current strategies are on the (plan),” she said.
Medical Society executive director Jon Rosell said he was “delighted they’re back on course.” Rosell said there hasn’t been lost ground on gathering data for the community health improvement plan.
“We won’t have an asterisk on 2016 in future years because we’ve failed to collect data,” Rosell said.
Sonja Armbruster, director of Wichita State University’s Center for Public Health Initiatives, said local health departments are typically heavily involved in community health assessments and improvement plans.
“We really missed the expertise, leadership and continuity when the local health agency is leading that work,” she said.
Commissioners Tim Norton, Jim Howell and Dave Unruh voted for restoring the position to the 2017 budget. Commissioners Richard Ranzau and Karl Peterjohn criticized it as government overreach into health care and voted against it.