A collective of Botetourt County residents and community service providers has been meeting monthly since earlier this year reviewing the community’s “health status indicators” to get a picture of the kind of health-related challenges the population faces as a whole.

Examining those indicators— statistical data that covers birth to senior citizen— will give this collective a sense of the most troubling health-related challenges in different parts of the community

The goal will then be to develop strategies that address any identified problem area or health need, Dr. Stephanie Harper explained.

Harper is Health District Director for the Alleghany Health District that includes Botetourt and the Botetourt County Health Department.

She’s coordinating the effort that will lead to a Community Health Assessment (CHA) and the subsequent Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP).

The benefit of the process the collective is currently involved in is that it creates a shared vision for health improvement using the assessment data to prioritize health issues, inform decision-making and enhance community well-being, Harper explained.

More than 20 individuals representing a cross section of county public service agencies, civic groups and individual citizens have been involved in the process so far as representatives on the Botetourt CHA/CHIP Steering Committee.

The steering committee met Monday at the Blue Ridge Library where Botetourt County’s Management Assistant Cody Sexton gave an overview of the county’s strategic plan and the Board of Supervisors’ vision for the county.

The group also reviewed some of the statistical data related to the county’s overall health— an ongoing process that will help determine areas the CHIP will focus on.

Currently, too, the group is reaching out to the community asking residents to take a short  survey either online or with a paper survey that’s being distributed through the community.

The survey asks a few demographic questions— age range, community where you live and gender— but primarily the group wants a picture of what folks like best in their community, what they think will make their community better and what they think will make their family’s life better.

The survey can be found online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/3BMVKBP. The survey is open through September 11.

Those who want to use a paper survey can get one at the Botetourt Health Department in Fincastle, and they will also be available at the county’s four libraries.

The survey is part of the Community Health Assessment— that picture of the community the group is trying to establish.

It will help identify the community’s strengths, the successes and the challenges the group will look at in determining “where we are,” Harper said.

Harper emphasized that it’s important to engage the community in the process and keep residents engaged as the CHA and CHIP are formulated.

As the group gets a better focus on the community’s health over the course of the next few months, it will develop a second survey that will be more in-depth.

That’s expected around the holidays late in the year.

The statistical data the steering committee is reviewing covers broad areas and fills a lose-leaf notebook. Those statistics look at everything from employment, housing, SOL test scores, arrests trend data and water quality to statistics about child vaccinations, opioid addiction indicators, suicides, births, food insecurity, causes of death and incidents of various diseases.

The various agencies and groups who are represented on the steering committee include the Health Department, LOA, Virginia Tech, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Botetourt schools, Sheriff’s Department, Fire and EMS Department, Christian Free Clinic, Botetourt Resource Center, Social Services, Blue Ridge Behavioral Health, Cooperative Extension Service, Virginia Tech, Virginia Navigator, county  administration, YMCA, Kiwanis and businesses.

The steering committee will meet again August 7 at 1:30 p.m.  at the Fincastle Library.