Leaders from all over Jackson County have set their health priorities for the next five years - and say their biggest goal is increasing access to care in a variety of ways.
Priorities in the Health Improvement Plan include decreasing cardiovascular disease, improving access to behavioral healthcare, and reducing cancer deaths.
Jackson County Health Department Administrator Miriam Link-Mullison says too many residents don't have the resources to seek out treatment on their own, so its up to the community to help them.
"Low income is a reality in southern Illinois. We know that we have issues. It's why we come together. If we did not come together to fix these problems, we wouldn't have nearly the impact."
The renewed initiative includes a new priority this year: reducing cancer deaths. While it's been included in previous Health Improvement Plans, cancer is now getting front-row status for awareness, prevention, and treatment.
Caleb Nehring with the American Cancer Society is co-chairing the new Jackson County Cancer Action Team. He says making the journey from assessing risk, to screening and treatment easier is a big priority for him.
"We just want to make sure it's a seamless process from time of primary care provider, all the way to the time of mammogram, pap smear, or even worst case scenario - diagnosis - we want to detect it earlier."
The five-year plan also focuses on reducing cardiovascular disease - by increasing awareness, promoting healthy eating and exercise, and decreasing the smoking rate.