Quality of Life
Before 2030, Polk County will have a Quality of Life that encourages diverse backgrounds to live in harmony while developing physically, spiritually, mentally, and culturally, within a healthy and safe environment.
The Quality of Life LEAD Team is comprised of representatives from across Polk County including non-profits, social services, government, health care, education, and faith-based organizations. Through this diverse membership, different perspectives are gleaned when probing the wide ranging and complex issues contributing to the Quality of Life in Polk County.
Although health is one of the important domains of quality of life, there are many other aspects — jobs, housing, schools, as well as natural and built environments. Intangibles such as culture, values, and spirituality are also key to overall quality of life that add to the complexity of its definition.
Throughout the Fall of 2018, the Team hosted a number of guest speakers and explored a variety of topics in order to set the Team’s focus for the coming year. The Team also sought feedback and guidance from other Polk Vision LEAD Teams to determine how best to align efforts in achieving the long term vision of the organization.
What the Team discovered was that regardless of the topic, a recurring observation was the need for deeper awareness, understanding and broader community engagement. Polk County is so vast that even providers serving the same population can be unaware of the other’s range of services. In an attempt to best manage these efforts, the Team decided to focus on the Winter Haven community, and then methodically advance their work to other areas of the County.
Did you know?
25.4% of Polk County Children (18 and under) Live in Poverty
FL Office of Economic and Demographic Research (2016)
16.4% of Polk County Residents Live in Poverty
FL Office of Economic and Demographic Research (2016)
Over 3,736 Polk County School Students Experienced Homelessness
(Polk County Public Schools 2018-2019)
Current and future community outreach strategies are geared to share information and resources through an ongoing learning network allowing cross- sector collaboration with other Polk Vision LEAD Teams. Progress is being made on improving engagement through knowledge and information sharing among Team members. Broadening community-wide involvement will further assist in linking people to services, as well as create opportunities to connect, learn, and engage … for all aspects of quality of life.
Polk Vision Quality of Life Initiatives:
We need to look at the places where there are no lanes intersecting so that we can fill in those gaps in services through connectivity.STEVE BISSONNETTE, President, VISTE
Building a Healthier Polk
In 2012, the Building a Healthier Polk Initiative began as a community-driven response to the startling obesity rates in Polk County. With obesity directly linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes which are major causes of death and preventable hospital stays, the data galvanized a movement among stakeholders across Polk County. Working cooperatively with the Florida Department of Health, Polk Vision convened a large cross-sector group of subject matter experts to prioritize objectives in addressing the alarming rate of obesity in our community. This group came to be known as Building a Healthier Polk.
Reducing the obesity rate and improving the physical health of our citizens will continue to be of great importance to the work of collaborative partners. However Polk County’s 2019 Community Health Assessment ranked mental health problems including suicide as the #1 most important health problem to address in order to improve the health of the community. With a reported rise in the numbers of suicides, hospitalizations for mental disorders and self-inflicted injuries, the call for collaborative action is clear.
During the next year, Polk Vision together with the Florida Department of Health in Polk County and other key partners will begin exploring how the Building a Healthier Polk initiative can be expanded to include ways to better align supports for mental and behavioral health services in our community.
Exploring Behavioral Health
The 2019 Community Health Assessment conducted by the Florida Department of Health in Polk County ranked mental health as the most important health problem facing our community. With a reported rise in the numbers of suicides, hospitalizations, mental disorders, and self-inflicted injuries, the call for collaborative action became clear.
In response, Polk Vision convened a Team focused on Exploring how we might best address the Behavioral Health needs in our community. Following a period of review and consideration, Polk Vision secured the services of a qualified firm, Crescendo Consulting Group, to complete a resource map, gap analysis, and to facilitate the development of a comprehensive strategic plan addressing Behavioral Health service gaps in Polk County.
- Improve the quality of life of Polk County residents by addressing the behavioral health needs in the community.
- Develop a comprehensive behavioral health strategic plan and behavioral health system access and process mapping. Identify system/resources that are valued and working well; help determine how they may work together more efficiently.
- Identify and prioritize system gaps and community needs.
- Engage a broad set of stakeholders; build consensus around results and actions.
- Use resources more efficiently – focusing on a finite set of objectives, establishing a timeline for results, “work with the willing” to achieve results.
Project Activities and Timeline:
New Behavioral Health Study
Food Security Council
The Polk County Food Security Council is a collaborative group of cross-sector representatives dedicated to ensuring that everyone in our community has equitable access to sufficient quantities of consistently available healthy, nutritious food.
Committed to the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusivity, the Council works to achieve its mission through innovative thought leadership and the implementation of strategically aligned hunger relief activities aimed at achieving sustained improvement.
Did you know?
In Polk County, 12.9% of the population live in poverty.
U S Census Bureau, ACS 5 Year Estimates 2013- 2017
The Food Insecurity Rate is reported to be 13.7 % of the population.
That is 92,000 people in Polk County living with food insecurity, 32,000 of whom are children.
Feeding America, Map the Meal Gap, 2018
Food Insecurity in Polk County
Food insecurity is one way to measure and assess the risk of hunger.
Food insecurity refers to the USDA’s measure of the lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food-insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods3.
3 Feeding America
Build Collaboration and Alignment between Programs:
The Council strengthens communication and collaboration between public and private groups working to increase food security in Polk County.
Focus on Current and Critical Issues:
Addressing increased hunger across all age groups in Polk County due to widespread job loss and the negative economic impact of COVID 19.
Work intentionally to ensure that all those in need have consistently available and equitable access to healthy, nutritious food in sufficient quantities across all of Polk County.
Provide a range of culturally sensitive, age appropriate, nutrition education resources both directly and through area feeding programs.
Support the widespread adoption of food safe standards and healthy environments at all food distribution locations across Polk County.
The Council responds to current policy proposals and advocacy opportunities at the local, state, and federal levels.
Support Communication within the Community:
Knowledgeable Council members serve as a Speakers Bureau in providing updates on food insecurity and efforts to align public and private hunger relief programs.
Did you know?
The “Meal Deficit” in Polk County is reported to be over 29 million meals missed annually.
Feeding Florida, The Meal Deficit Metric Project, March 2020
This program aims to provide simple steps towards achieving and maintaining a healthy weight among children by developing healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Establishing healthy behaviors during childhood is easier and more effective than trying to change unhealthy behaviors during adulthood. Schools play a critical role in promoting the health and safety of young people and helping them establish lifelong healthy behaviors. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Recognizing that public health and education serve the same children, there has been a call for greater alignment between the education system and health sectors. This includes an intentional integration and collaboration of services aimed at improving each child’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development. (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)
In response to this call, the Polk Vision School Health LEAD Team began implementation of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) framework during year one of the Healthy Schools pilot.