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Coalition shares information about Washington County health-care needs

Group got feedback through a Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey and a Community Survey

November 29, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

A coalition says it has gathered a wealth of helpful information about Washington County health-care needs.

The Health Improvement Coalition’s work hopefully will lead to positive changes, said co-chair Allen Twigg, the director of behavioral sciences for Meritus Health.

The group capped a yearlong period of research by releasing a report on its findings on Thursday at Robinwood Professional Center.

In January, the coalition — which includes representatives from several local health and social-service organizations — held a community health summit.

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The group got feedback through a Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey of 602 people and a Community Survey of 217 people from underrepresented populations.

Other information was collected through existing health-statistic sources and through focus-group surveys at a Hispanic Festival.

Earl Stoner, Washington County’s health officer, said some information wasn’t shocking.

What was helpful, he said, was digging down for the story behind the data.

It’s clear that many people don’t go to a doctor for routine health care. The coalition was able to ask participants why they don’t, Stoner said.

Twigg presented facts and conclusions from the coalition’s work on Thursday, grouped into categories such as access to healthcare, chronic disease, behavioral health and lifestyle behaviors.

The report showed that:

  • 18.1 percent of respondents didn’t fill a prescription in the last 12 months because of the cost
  • 72.6 percent of Washington County adults are overweight or obese, compared to the national average of 63.5 percent
  • 30 percent of respondents reported that they had no physical activity in the last 30 days
  • The rate of youth tobacco use in Washington County is more than double the state rate
  • Less than 10 percent of the people who responded to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey ate multiple servings of fruits, vegetables or beans per day
  • Washington County’s teenage birth rate per 1,000 people rose from 36 in 2010 to 38.1 in 2011, while the state rate dropped
  • The Family Planning Clinic reported a 41 percent increase in Washington County teen births in the first 10 months of 2012
  • HIV infection rates in Washington County are lower than the state rate
  • 66.3 percent of Washington County’s residents older than 65 have had a pneumonia shot, compared to a federal Healthy People 2020 goal of 90 percent.

Surveys also helped the coalition learn what can be improved. For example, participants said they were more likely to get health screenings that were affordable or covered by insurance.

Twigg said another example of progress relates to the tendency of people without health insurance to use the hospital emergency room as their first source of care.

He said police officers have gotten training on guiding people to agencies that can best help them, reducing the burden on the hospital ER.

Based on the data, the group prioritized the community’s six top health needs as: obesity and physical inactivity, diabetes, heart disease and smoking, cancer, mental health access and emergency department visits, and teen pregnancy.

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