The Flathead City-County Health Department received a $15,000 grant to build a website it hopes will become a digital gathering place for the community.
The health department recently launched Flathead Forward, a website that it called a “planning tool” designed to engage residents on the health of the community. The grant, which came from the Public Health National Center for Innovations, covered the cost of sending two county employees to Washington D.C. for a training conference and the construction of the website.
“It’s creating a dialogue that did not exist before,” said public health nurse Heather Murray, one of the two employees who went to Washington D.C. “This will helps us reach the community (and ensure) that our programs can respond to the community’s needs.”
The health department was one of five in the country to receive a grant from the Public Health National Center for Innovations — a Virginia-based organization dedicated to encouraging innovation and creativity in the public health filed — to build a website based off one created by the Garrett County Health Department in Maryland.
The website has places for data and community plans and documents. However, the main feature is individual message boards dedicated to specific groups. As of last week, there were 27 groups focused on everything from the Veteran’s Coalition of Northwest Montana to Herron Park. Other groups include those about rural health and cooking.
Murray said that most of the groups are public and she hopes people will become more aware of different projects in the valley and that it will help spur coordination. Murray and another county employee, Health Promotion Specialist Molly Neu, help administer the site and approve new members. They also monitor what is posted to ensure it is accurate. If someone does post misinformation, Murray and Neu will respond to it and correct it.
“It’ll be like Facebook, but there will be no fake news,” she said.
As of last week, there were about 100 active users on the website.
For more information visit FlatheadForward.com.