Cumberland County’s Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) will serve as a guidance document for a wide coalition of public health providers in the region to better address the health needs of people and communities with the greatest barriers and develop solutions together.
The County will facilitate the Maine Prevention Network grant over the next ten years, ensuring strong regional coordination of efforts to prevent and reduce smoking and substance use and promoting healthy eating and active living and aligning goals with the broader public health network
PORTLAND -- Cumberland County announced on Thursday a pair of significant developments that aim to improve regional Public Health outcomes, and establish the County as a collaborator and service provider for key health programming.
Cumberland County has released a robust Community Health Improvement Plan, in collaboration with dozens of key leaders working on public health in the region, that will act as a guiding document for public health organizations in Cumberland County over the next 4-5 years.
Second, the State has chosen Cumberland County through a competitive bidding process to manage Maine Prevention Network programming in the Cumberland Public Health District for the next ten years.
Both announcements are significant. Managing data and coordination of public health services at the County level will help communities and service providers to collaborate, communicate, and deploy resources more effectively and fairly.
The announcements are also significant because it is uncommon for a county in the Northeast to take a leadership role in regional public health coordination and service delivery. Most counties in New England don’t manage public health departments at all.
The first announcement is the release of the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), that will guide the development of the County Public Health Department and the work of public health organizations across the County.
Through the CHIP process, the Public Health Department researched existing public health data with attention focused on populations with the biggest barriers to health, and included interviews with over forty key leaders in Cumberland County working on some aspect of health and wellbeing. It also involved fourteen interactive focus group sessions with over 170 people, including groups working on specific health topics like transportation or food security, coalitions working to address the needs of specific populations like the Lakes Region or LGBTQ+ health, and groups of leaders like superintendents and town managers who are working on a variety of local health topics.
The finished document is a thorough, clean, data-supported report on the current status of public health across Cumberland County, and a targeted roadmap to improving health and wellbeing.
With the CHIP complete, the County Public Health Department will focus on securing resources, creating collaborations, and building capacity internally as well as within communities, organizations, and towns to implement prioritized strategies. The County Public Health Department will seek to act as a catalyst for leveraging resources that can be directed to the most appropriate and culturally relevant entities to do the work.
Public Health providers and partners reacted with enthusiasm to the CHIP, and discussed how it will help their organizations plan and implement regional health measures:
"It is so exciting to see this final health improvement plan. It's been a labor of love to investigate and prioritize these very complicated issues, which have different - and significant - impacts on people across the County. The development and publication of this plan underscore the importance of local involvement and leadership in public health issues and I'm optimistic that now, with this plan, we can lower health risk factors and improve health outcomes for people across Cumberland County." - –Becca Boulos, Maine Public Health Association
"Public health organizations are tasked with helping communities address incredibly complex challenges,” “Cumberland County's Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) is a thoughtful synthesis of population-level data and community-sourced strategies. TOA's Public Health Program will utilize the CHIP to guide decision-making around resource allocation and implementation efforts."
– Bridget O'Connor, Public Health Program Director at The Opportunity Alliance.
The CHIP also provides data and information for other public health, community organizations, and municipal entities as they work to build their capacity to address the key health issues facing Cumberland County:
Public health and community-based organizations can use the CHIP to apply for additional funding, educate key leaders, and support their collaborative efforts to improve health for all.
School Districts can use the CHIP to find partnerships and build collaborations to address community conditions that impact students’ ability to learn.
Towns can use the CHIP to educate community members and guide policy and practice changes that are needed to improve health for all.
Community members can use the CHIP to support their own advocacy efforts for changes needed to create a healthier community.
The full CHIP can be accessed on the Public Health page of Cumberland County’s website: https://www.cumberlandcounty.org/publichealth
Cumberland County also announced that the State has selected the County’s Public Health Department to oversee and implement strategies to prevent tobacco and substance use and promote healthy eating and active living across Cumberland County. Beginning in January 2023, Cumberland County will receive roughly $1.4M per year for ten years, to oversee and implement prevention strategies as a part of the Maine Prevention Network (MPN).
The grant is focused on populations with the greatest barriers to health and the highest risks for tobacco use, substance use disorder, and obesity. It will fund several of the priority strategies identified in the CHIP, such as supporting comprehensive school-based interventions to address behavioral health problems, increasing bike and pedestrian funding for the region, addressing racism and discrimination, and expanding food security.
The MPN grant will also fund comprehensive strategies to prevent tobacco initiation and secondhand smoke exposure, primary and secondary substance use prevention strategies, and policies and practices to increase healthy eating and active living. It will help create a stronger prevention infrastructure across the County, by funding new positions within the Cumberland County Public Health Department and also funding staff positions at the City of Portland, The Opportunity Alliance, Mid Coast Hospital, and OUT Maine.
Cumberland County is the only county in Maine facilitating Maine Prevention Network funds.