Calling Thursday’s Community Health Assessment meeting a collaborative effort with other community agencies, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner said the triennial health survey will go a long way in ascertaining the health issues facing county residents.
He said the just completed health assessment survey, taken every three years, had 598 respondents and asked those surveyed what the health issues concerning them were, what were the things they thought were making them sick, and among others, how healthy they felt.
The survey was designed to identify the health and lifestyle concerns facing Highland County residents, Warner said, and what solutions were or needed to be available to address those concerns.
The meeting, held at the health department conference room at the North High Business Center in Hillsboro, had as its main objective allowing those in attendance to help map out the main strategies and priorities of the report, an overview of some of the preliminary data, and the next steps leading up to public release.
“Using the information we got from the survey, we turn around and ask ourselves the question ‘are we providing services that really meet those community needs?’” Warner said. “And that’s important in that it tells us if we’re spending tax dollars correctly, using our workforce correctly, and that we’re targeting what we do towards what the community needs us to do.”
Some of the key findings in the 2019 CHA survey were consistent with the one performed three years ago; however, there were also several changes.
The survey found that the population of Highland County continued to decline from the 2010 census, and that although poverty and unemployment rates improved, 58 percent of families in the county earned less than $50,000 annually, with 16 percent reported to be living below the federal poverty level.
It went on to show that teen pregnancies continued to rise above state averages, as did those that reported experiencing mental health or substance use/abuse issues.
The CHA survey focused on illegal substance abuse, mental health, obesity-physical activity-nutrition, chronic disease, child fatality and tobacco use.
Kim Jones, director of community health advancement for Adena Health Systems, said Highland County harbors much of the same health outcomes that she has seen in the other 31 counties that make up the Appalachian region.
“The things that we in the health care community see are heart disease, all kinds of cancer, accidental death as well as lung and respiratory issues,” she said. “So with this, we peel back the onion, so to speak, and look at the health behaviors and contributing factors like smoking, physical activity and nutritional practices, and those types of things really drive the high blood pressure and the diabetes that we sometimes see.”
Environmental factors come into play as well, Jones said, with poverty tending to impact nutrition, good housing, being able to work, and being able to afford health care.
Warner said that in his preliminary study, the results of the data were similar to what was found in the 2016 survey, such as a high rate of tobacco use and a growing concern over obesity.
“One thing that jumped out in this survey that deserves more study was the number of people who said they had considered or attempted suicide,” he said. “That’s something that we’ve never identified in past surveys.”
The meeting was one of the final steps in the completion process for the 2020 Community Health Improvement Plan, with the next goal being to put together a draft of the health assessment report and present it to those that attended Thursday’s meeting, which he said is always open to the general public with its input welcome.
“Once that report is finalized, we’ll present that to the community so that everyone is aware that we’ve done this work,” Warner said. “At that point we will have identified some specific issues that we feel are the reason for poor health outcomes.”
The final step will be the formal implementation of the 2020 CHIP, which he said will enable the public, both private and professional, to fix those problems that were identified so the health department, Community Action agencies and health care providers can collectively help to cure the county’s ills.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.