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Mid-Columbia health group earns state designation

Greater Columbia Accountable Community of Health encompasses 10 counties in southern and southeastern Washington, including Benton and Franklin counties and the Yakama Nation.
Greater Columbia Accountable Community of Health encompasses 10 counties in southern and southeastern Washington, including Benton and Franklin counties and the Yakama Nation. NYT

A group that aims to improve health and health care in the region has earned an important designation from the state.

It’s now an Accountable Community of Health.

Officials marked the milestone — one they’ve been working toward since 2014 — during an event Thursday in Kennewick, saying the designation is a step toward long-term changes and enhancements.

“Today we celebrate how far we’ve come” and what’s ahead, said Martin Valadez, board president of the group, called Greater Columbia Accountable Community of Health.

It encompasses 10 counties in southern and southeastern Washington, including Benton and Franklin counties. The Yakama Nation also is included.

Accountable Communities of Health are a key part of Healthier Washington, a statewide initiative to lower costs and improve population health and health care delivery. They’re groups of experts from a cross-section of fields — from hospitals to social services — who come together to work on regional health goals.

Other regions in the state have groups that have obtained or are working toward the designation.

The Greater Columbia group began meeting in summer 2014, working on structure and organization, and identifying health priority areas to focus its efforts on. The five areas it picked are care coordination, diabetes/obesity, behavioral health, healthy youth and equitable communities and oral health.

The Greater Columbia group’s five focus areas are care coordination, diabetes/obesity, behavioral health, healthy youth and equitable communities and oral health.

Working groups have formed around each issue.

“(They are) analyzing data, sharing information and assessing existing programs and gaps within the region in order to prioritize critical needs,” according to information from the Greater Columbia group.

The group’s next big task is completing a regional health improvement plan by July.

Carol Moser, executive director of the group and the Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance, which has served as the group’s backbone agency, said health is a complex thing.

It’s not just about going to the doctor or dentist. It’s also about factors such an environment, education and circumstance, she said.

The model used being used by the Greater Columbia group takes the perspectives of a range of officials and leaders, with the aim of getting at root causes.

By putting our collective heads together, you generally come up with a much more complex answer to address these complex issues.

Carol Moser, Greater Columbia Accountable Community of Health

“By putting our collective heads together, you generally come up with a much more complex answer to address these complex issues,” Moser said.

The group received $150,000 from the state Health Care Authority with designation, and it also has a contract with the state for $330,000 a year for two years to do its work.

For more on the group or to get involved, go to www.greatercolumbiaach.org.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, @SaraTCHerald

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