Walker County Is Off to a Healthy Start in 2018

In 2017, the Bold Goals Coalition of Central Alabama continued to work across the region to improve the health of residents and communities through county-specific efforts such as those of the Walker County Health Action Partnership (WCHAP). For the past five years, WCHAP partners have collaborated on numerous projects focused on three strategic issues: Livable Communities, Healthy People and Coordinated Care. Through the collective work of WCHAP and the dedication of the individual partners, Walker County has steadily advanced in the annual County Health Rankings – moving up to #58 among Alabama counties in 2017, which is a substantial improvement from its last-place position of #67 in 2015. Following are a few highlights and accomplishments from the past year, as well as a look ahead.

A new access point to Cane Creek will include a boat launch and safe, off-road parking.

The Livable Communities priority group continues to develop and promote Walker County Lake as an outdoor-recreation destination. Partners are currently developing an archery park that will offer three different user experiences: an elevated shooting platform with ADA-accessibility (the first of its kind in Alabama); a youth and adult known-distance range; and a tournament-only, walk-though experience. In addition, the Walker County Commission and the City of Cordova have been working to improve access points to various waterways throughout the county. Due to the successful development of the Walston Bridge Road Access Point, the Walker County Commission was awarded a two-year $50,000-grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham to improve four existing access points, and create three new ones, which will connect 31 miles of navigable streams.

The Coordinated Care priority group was also introduced in 2017 as another WCHAP initiative aimed at improving the health of Walker County residents by increasing the coordination of providers along the continuum of care. To achieve this goal, the Coordinated Care Priority Group is focused on advancing health literacy and medication safety, improving the transition of care between different healthcare providers and enhancing end-of-life care. Priority Group members have been working with the Alabama Quality Assurance Foundation to perform a root-cause analysis by collecting local data to identify pressing issues and develop actionable steps to improve patient health outcomes.

Oakman Elementary School was the site of Power Scholars Academy last summer.

The Healthy People priority group partners had a successful first year of afterschool and summer programming at Oakman Middle School due to a 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) grant. Among participating students who were tested in both 2016 and 2017, there was a statistically significant increase in their average ACT Aspire scores in reading, math and science. ACT Aspire Reading scores increased an average of 2.8 points, while ACT Aspire Science scores increased an average of 3.1 points. A five-week summer program called Power Scholars Academy was also offered, providing children with rigorous academic instruction and fun, camp-like enrichment activities and field trips. The Power Scholars summer program produced very positive results as well. Participating scholars averaged a three-month gain in reading/literacy proficiency and a one-month gain in math proficiency. The second year of the afterschool program began August 14th and is already making a positive impact.

Improving the health of residents throughout Central Alabama – with the Bold Goal of ensuring that Blount, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker counties are all ranked among the top 10 healthiest in the state by 2025 – requires many different organizations and individuals working together. And we need your help. To learn more about the initiative, or to get involved in the work, please contact Elyse Peters, Health Action Partnership Specialist, at epeters@uwca.org.