DPHHS unveils new state health initiative

Jun 20, 2013

DPHHS Director Richard Opper speaking about the Bullock Administration's new health proposal to a meeting of the Montana Association of Public Health Officials.
Credit Dan Boyce

Gov. Steve Bullock announced a new initiative Thursday to improve health outcomes in the state. The plan, called “Big Sky. New Horizons. A Healthier Montana” outlines a series of strategies to address some of the state’s biggest health and safety concerns, like smoking and motor vehicle fatalities.

“When it comes to healthcare, we will, we have and will continue to have grand policy debates about who pays and how much they should pay,” Bullock said, “but what we shouldn’t lose sight of is there’s so much we can do.”

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Richard Opper estimates his department has been compiling information for the plan for more than a year. Using that information, the plan has outlined six health priorities:

  • Prevent, identify and manage chronic conditions
  • Promote the health of mothers, infants and children
  • Prevent, identify and control communicable disease
  • Prevent injuries and reduce exposure to environmental health hazards
  • Improve mental health and reduce substance abuse

Opper said DPHHS will be monitoring 27 different health indicators among Montanans, from asthma to obesity rates. The plan details 78 different strategies to improve those indicators, but Opper acknowledged much of it will require citizens comply with health recommendations and take their own initiative to improve their lifestyle.

“We don’t have the ability to necessarily enforce what are unquestionably good ideas on people,” Opper said. “There are educational programs that we can undertake that will at least give people better tools to make better decisions in the future.”

Opper said many of these programs are already underway, while others are still in the implementation process. DPHHS worked on preparing the "Big Sky. New Horizons." plan with more than 130 organizations across the state.

Read more about the new plan here.