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By DAVID CAMPHOUSE
As a part of the Scott County Health Department’s (SCHD) five-year Illinois Project for Local Assessment of Needs (IPLAN) process, SCHD has compiled a comprehensive community health needs assessment, which provides an overview of the primary public health concerns facing the county.
According to SCHD RN/BSN Meghan VanDeVelde, the key element of the community health needs assessment was collecting input from community members. SCHD employed a survey tool as well as in-person focus groups to gain input from a large cross-section of the Scott County Community.
“We used a survey to get information from community members to see what they think are the problems,” VanDeVelde said.
In an effort to make the survey accessible for residents to complete, SCHD made the survey available both online and in hard copy form.
“We put the survey on our Scott County Health Department Facebook page,” VanDeVelde said. “Residents could also come to our office if they didn’t have access to the internet.”
VanDeVelde reported that at least 120 individual residents completed the survey.
To provide further information, SCHD hosted two focus group sessions to gather data from community leaders.
“At the focus groups, we had people from organizations like the schools, non-profits, city leaders, EMS, outreach, the civic group and the nursing home,” VanDeVelde said. “Our administrator just facilitated a conversation to see what people that work in the community in different capacities thought the issues were. We documented everything that was discussed.”
VanDeVelde reported that the results of the in-person focus groups and the survey instrument aligned closely.
The survey results determined the top three behaviors that have the greatest influence on the community’s overall health are:
■ Drug/alcohol abuse
■ Poor eating habits and unhealthy food choices
■ Lack of exercise
The top five barriers to healthy living within Scott County that were identified by community members were:
■ Unawareness of services, programs, and resources
■ Lack of mental health services
■ Limited or unaffordable healthy food options
■ Inability to afford services
■ Lack of activities to promote health and exercise
The top five health issues identified in Scott County were:
■ Mental Health
■ Drug Abuse
■ Aging Issues
■ Alcohol Abuse
■ Heart Disease
VanDeVelde said that mental health was, by far, the biggest health issue facing the community – with 68% of residents identifying it as an issue of concern.
“Number one was mental health,” VanDeVelde said. “That’s a broad term, but it’s so difficult to get appointments. People have to drive to places like Quincy and Springfield, and a lot of people can’t just do that at the drop of a hat. So we’re looking at resources that we could possibly bring to the community or into the schools to help.”
Other issues commonly identified by community members was growing substance use on the part of young people and growing drug use in the community as a whole.
“It was brought up that we need other outlets for young people that aren’t into sports or the other extracurriculars that are available,” VanDeVelde said. “There aren’t a lot of hang out spots for kids.”
Besides just gathering data from the community, another important component of the IPLAN process is charting a course of action for SCHD to address the issues identified in the community health needs assessment.
“Now that we have the information from the community about what the problems are, we can make a plan for the things we can do about them,” VanDeVelde said.