The Health Initiative was created out of a collaboration by Canton-Potsdam Hospital and Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center. Leaders from these institutions brought together over 200 individuals - representing a broad spectrum of the community including health, human service, business, government and education - to conduct a thorough assessment of health in St. Lawrence County. The steering committee identified three health priority areas that needed to be addressed county-wide: Access to Care; Nutrition and Physical Activity; and Substance Use, focusing on youth tobacco use. The agency was incorporated in 1999 as a free-standing 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to secure resources and programming to address the identified priorities.
The Health Initiative continues to build on this rich history by focusing on community collaboration as a key element of every program. The agency is also committed to supporting other community agencies in their efforts including helping others to obtain resources, sharing data, information and materials, and collaborating on joint projects. This philosophy is summed up by the agency's mission statement:
"To measurably improve the health of St. Lawrence County residents, and the residents of the North Country Region, through collaborative community efforts."
Strategic Planning completed by the agency in 2010 determined the need to work on a regional basis on some projects in order to meet the needs of the community, serve areas required for funding opportunities, and contribute to the sustainability of the agency. Over the past several years the Health Initiative has developed several multi-county projects and is in the process of developing a state-wide project related to worksite wellness.