The state has given the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council $2.4 million to further population-based health initiatives by the Long Island Health Collaborative.

The collaborative, coordinated by the hospital council, was started two years ago as part of a state mandate to examine Long Island's key health problems and figure out ways to address them. For the first time, 26 hospitals, both county health departments, eight academic centers and 35 community groups began to meet to share resources and best practices in order to give people simple, effective tools to improve their health.

The collaborative, which meets monthly, is focusing initially on chronic diseases, especially those related to obesity, and mental health and substance abuse.

Up to now, the group has had no state funding. But with the money -- to be allocated over two years -- from the New York State Department of Health, the group will be able to fund data collection and analysis and training for programs to promote good nutrition and physical activity.

"We are going to be able to move the needle," said Janine Logan, the hospital council's director of communications, who is coordinating the collaborative. The hospital council is one of 10 groups throughout the state that received such grants.

In the spring, the group hopes to start an Islandwide walking campaign. And in January, the collaborative plans to launch a web-based platform that will allow all of the members to upload and share data.

Lisa Benz Scott, director of the program in public health at Stony Brook Medicine, who has been in charge of developing the platform for the collaborative, said the grant "allows us to take this to the next level."

"I applaud the state Department of Health for recognizing the power of integrating systems and looking broadly across populations," she said.

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