Health care coordination urged

GLENDALE — Better coordination of health and social services available in Glendale is a top priority to better battle local health issues, a group of community leaders said Wednesday.

Several dozen representatives from local health-care and nonprofit service providers gathered at the Glendale Adult Recreation Center Wednesday to discuss community health and quality life needs.

The input will be used in the creation of comprehensive community needs assessments for the area's three hospitals — including Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center Verdugo Hospital — as required to be completed every three years under state law.

Almost all in attendance agreed that while Glendale has a high number of health care and other social service providers, many work in isolation from each other.

"It's so important to coordinate care and services," said Lynn Brandstater, a former chairwoman of the Glendale Healthier Communities Coalition, which co-sponsored Wednesday's forum discussion.

By collaborating on everything from services to grant applications, individual service providers could become more efficient and better serve the community, officials said.

In an addition to the lack of coordination, officials listed high rates of smoking and obesity as top community health problems that continue to need to be addressed.

According to Los Angeles County's most recent data, compiled in 2007, about 16% of Glendale residents smoke, which is above the county average.

The survey predates 2008 ordinances banning smoking in nearly all publicly accessible places. Glendale has been recognized by the American Lung Assn. as leading the state in local tobacco control legislation.

Officials lauded the smoking ordinance, but said community organizations need to continue to provide assistance to help smokers quit.

Meanwhile, Glendale's obesity rate has risen in recent years, with more than half of the population considered overweight or obese, according to 2007 data.

The obesity problem, officials said, is often linked to a lack of access to nutritional food and education about proper nutrition.

"There is a big pocket of people we serve regularly that don't have access to inexpensive nutritional food," said Rick White, director of social services for Salvation Army Glendale.

Glendale's obesity rate can also be reduced through efforts to encourage physical activity through safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians, officials said.

At the conclusion of the more than hour-long forum, community activist Marilyn Gunnell encouraged those in attendance to act on the problems discussed.

"The problem is you come and get excited, and you leave and it all leaves with you," she said.

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