DARKE COUNTY — The results of a recent survey may provide Darke County’s healthcare providers more weapons in their fight against illness and disease — and healthier living for the county’s population.
Darke County’s “Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA),” used to collect health data among county residents in order to pinpoint areas of need in the community, has been completed.
The survey was commissioned by Wayne HealthCare, the Darke County Health Department, and the Tri-County Board of Mental Health, in collaboration with Wright State University’s Center for Urban and Public Affairs.
Several other organizations are represented on the steering committee, including Family Health, Brethren Retirement Community, Versailles HealthCare, Darke County Job and Family Services, Darke County Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Darke County Schools, and the Darke County Board of Commissioners.
The CNHA phone survey started in August, when the center began telephoning Darke County adults. In total, the answers of 418 respondents were included in the study.
The survey results identified the top three health issues as: chronic disease (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer); substance abuse and mental health (drugs, alcohol); and chronic lung disease (COPD, asthma).
Among the assessment’s findings:
- Heart disease remains the leading cause of mortality in Darke County, with cancer a close second.
- Diabetes remains an ongoing area of concern, as Darke County residents have a rate 3.7 percent higher than the state of Ohio average.
- In terms of obesity and physical inactivity, Darke County rates as the sixth worst county in Ohio.
- Darke County residents suffering from chronic lung disease are affected by a number of factors, including smoking, indoor and outdoor pollution, and occupational dusts and chemicals.
- Alcohol and drug use accounts for the 11th leading cause of death in Darke County and the sixth highest reason people were admitted to the hospital.
- Darke County ranks high as an area where people are charged with opiate possession.
Wayne HealthCare Wellness Coordinator Jordan Francis cautions that though the findings may appear discouraging, the survey itself will be of great assistance to healthcare providers.
“It really helps highlight the more important healthcare needs,” he said.
Not only were the responses of survey takers factored into the assessment, the study included input from a number of focus groups, such as Darke County Jobs and Family Services and Grace Resurrection Community Center.
To complement information gathered during the phone survey of adults, Darke County high school and middle school students will be surveyed in early October. These findings will help identify health needs specific to Darke County youth.
Francis said that while the focus groups were aimed primarily at underserved community members, who, as he states, “have a more difficult time traversing the healthcare system,” he expects the CHNA to have an impact on all Darke County residents.
More focus groups are slated to take place for added input, including those involving teachers and school administrators.
Francis said that while the study was aimed primarily at disadvantaged community members, who, as he states, “have a more difficult time traversing the healthcare system,” he expects the CHNA to have an impact on all Darke County residents.
“This has been done out of an intention of enhancing the health of the entire population of Darke County,” he said.
For Francis, the first tangible result of the assessment will be the creation of health-focused task forces with the cooperation of various county agencies.
The coordination and cooperation of these agencies will be facilitated by the Coalition for a Healthy Darke County in accordance with their mission to bring together community resources to make healthy living possible for all residents in Darke County.
“It is the hospital’s job and that of the Darke County Health Department to create a community health plan, and based upon the results, develop task forces to deal with these issues,” he said. “Because of this, I think the results of the assessment will be incredibly beneficial to the public, and make us better able to help meet people’s healthcare needs.”
More information will be available as the implementation plan gets under way.