Blake Jones

The Cleburne Rotary Club on Thursday met for only the second time in a long while, after having canceled their last several months worth of meetings in precaution of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Thursday’s meeting represented a Cleburne Rotary first. Although several Rotarians were gathered in the Cleburne Conference Center, the day’s guest delivered her presentation from the comfort of her Fort Worth home via Zoom.

Mandy Forbus, director of Community Health Improvement - Southern Region for Texas Health Resources, discussed ongoing programs and partnerships between Texas Health and local organizations aimed at identifying and positively impacting community health needs.

“Your ZIP code can be more impactful than your genetics,” Forbus said. “Eighty percent of our health is impacted by social determinants of health.”

The mission of Texas Health is to improve the health of people in the communities they serve through partnering with other non-profit and governmental organizations.

“We’re one of the largest faith-based, non-profit health systems in the United States,” Forbus said. “And have more than 350 access points across the 16 counties in our region. Through community engagement and advocacy we work to develop and advance strategic relationships that educate, support and engage community stakeholders to improve the health and well being of the community.”

Such needs are approached through proactive and collaborative partnerships and programs to serve as a catalyst for health improvement throughout the community, Forbus said. That includes advocating for public policy on health access and other issues and through the integration of faith and spirituality, that is, caring for the whole person body, mind and spirit.

By using data to target underserved populations of the community, the programs strive to meet people in need where they are. 

Such requires a community health needs assessment, which is conducted every three years. The assessment targets the health priorities of a given community then identifies, by ZIP code, targets communities and helps those involved build focused, community based approaches to local health care needs and shortcomings.

Taken into consideration as well are social determinants of health such as economic stability, neighborhood and physical environments, food access, community and social contexts and area health care systems and access.

“It pinpoints specific ZIP codes to address social determinants of health before the resulting problems surface in the form of chronic disease and premature death,” Forbus said. “And calls on agencies from different sectors in communities to unite against identified issues.”

Leadership councils — made up of community leaders in five geographic regions that together cover more than 400 ZIP codes — help put the boots on the ground at a community level, Forbus said.

“Remember when I said your ZIP code is more impactful than genetic code?” Forbus said. “This is where the community impact comes in. This is where we need help from all different agencies to work together to make a difference.

“A lot of times organizations are doing great things on their own. Through this we are able to harness all of that together and work collectively to address issues.”

To address such needs, 12 agencies representing the work of numerous non-profit organizations and Texas Health’s Community Impact leadership councils and 20 Texas Health staff members received $5.2 million in grants to address such issues as food insecurity, depression and other health needs. 

Johnson County received a $300,000 grant, which went toward the Johnson County Supporting Our Seniors program. United Way of Johnson County serves as the lead agency on the program though the East Cleburne Community Center and other agencies also participate.

The program focuses on depression and food insecurity issues for low-income individuals.

With so many out of work because of closings related to COVID-19, such challenges have only increased in recent months, Forbus said. The program, which previously focused on residents 55 and older, now includes those 40 and older.

Meals on Wheels North Central Texas Executive Director Christine Hockin-Boyd is one of five Johnson County residents on the Texas Health Community Impact Southern Leadership Council.

“It’s important for me to serve on this advisory council,” Hockin-Boyd said. Because, as Meals on Wheels is already serving the community, it gives an opportunity to have a voice at the table to ensure equal and fair opportunities are given to all of our ZIP codes and allows us to see the big picture of working together with other agencies to make a difference.”

Johnson County Supporting Our Seniors covers the ZIP codes of 76031, 76033 and 76059. The program offers depression screening and assistance, drive-thru and mobile food pantries, transportation assistance and other resources.

For information, contact United Way of Johnson County Executive Director Barbara Yoder at 817-944-1024 or Barbara@uwjc.com.

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