The Richmond Register

April 5, 2013

Health department placing focus on marketing, internet presence

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — A recent media survey conducted by the Madison County Health Department has revealed that clients' No. 1 choice for health information is not their doctors, the media or the internet.

Of the 273 respondents, 91 percent get their advice and health news from word-of-mouth, Director of Development and Communications Christie Green told the board of health at its Wednesday night meeting.

Thirty-seven percent of the clients surveyed get their information from the Internet, 16 percent from newspapers, 13 percent from Facebook and eight percent from the radio, she said.

Only four or five respondents said they get health information from their doctors, she said.

The survey was conducted as part of the health department’s work on developing a marketing plan. With the switch to same-day appointment scheduling for health department clinic services, more slots have opened up to see people.

“We know we need to get more people in our doors,” Community Health Nursing Supervisor Jean Powell told the board.

Green said a crucial part of the marketing plan will be to build the health department’s presence online. The agency has a Facebook page, Twitter account, Google+ page and a Tumblr blog.

“A surprising number of older people are getting more connected,” Green said of their Internet use.

Ninety-one percent of respondents said they had access to the internet, with the majority (79 percent) surfing the web on a tablet or smart phone.

Of the people who use the internet, 84 percent use Facebook and 13 percent are on Twitter.

Green said the focus also will be on advertising, public service announcements and face-to-face outreach. About $2,000 has been allotted in the current fiscal year for marketing. A slogan has been created as well – “Your Health is Our Mission.”

Advertising will be posted inside local transit buses and even the “brown bags” that are used to distribute free condoms in the community will be printed with health department information, Green said.

Financial report

Chief Finance Officer David Reed gave his regular financial status report, which showed the health department with only a $33,000 deficit at the end of March, which is nine months into the fiscal year. However, home health agency MEPCO has a deficit of half a million dollars, Reed said.

He expected most of that deficit to be eliminated when MEPCO receives its Medicaid cost settlements soon. The settlements are estimated to total $504,000.

Reed also discussed the changes brought about by the passage of House Bill 1, which aims to increase transparency and accountability for Kentucky’s taxing districts. A central online registry will be created for the taxing districts to post their budgets and other financial information. Also, if a taxing district wants to impose a new fee or tax rate increase, it must have a public hearing in conjunction with its county fiscal court.

Finally, Reed addressed concerns about another piece of state legislation passed last month that sought to reform the ailing state pension fund. If, as the bill requires, the state must pay the actuarially required contribution starting in 2015, that will increase the health department’s employer rate to 45 percent. The current rate is 23.8 percent.

Reed said such an increase in the rate would cost the agency about $1 million. The health department’s current budget totals $12.8 million, so the increase in pension contributions would enlarge the budget by about 8 percent.

Baptist Health partnership

Health Director Nancy Crewe discussed the health department’s new partnership with Baptist Health in Richmond for diabetes education services. Last year, the state defunded the six Diabetes Centers for Excellence, one of which is in Richmond.

The hospital has made a commitment to make diabetes education services available to everyone in the community at no cost, Crewe said. Baptist Health will be conducting its own classes and certified courses. The hospital also will be handling clinical nutrition counseling services by referral from the health department, Crewe said.

Donation of school clinic equipment

Because the Madison County Health Department is ending its contract with the Madison County and Berea school districts for school health services, Crewe discussed a request by the schools to keep some of the equipment. State law allows the health department to transfer surplus equipment with or without payment to another governmental agency, according to Reed.

Reed recommended the health department keep some items for backup, as identified by school nursing staff, and donate the remainder of the inventory to the school system.

The health board unanimously approved the action.

Pedestrian safety taskforce

Two members of the Berea Pedestrian Safety Task Force gave a presentation to the board about improvements to driver and pedestrian safety that were made last year. The work was funded by a $25,000 grant from FedEx.

Some of the improvements included a multimodal path across the parking lot at Berea Community School; more than seven high-visibility crosswalks on school routes, 12 countdown crossing signals; Americans With Disabilities-act compliant modifications to walkways; and a Safe Routes to School map that was distributed to students and their families.

The group’s leaders are exploring doing a similar project in Richmond.

The next board of health meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 5 at the Richmond health department location.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.