05/17/12 — Surveyors want health opinions from public

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Surveyors want health opinions from public

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 17, 2012 1:46 PM

Is Wayne County a good place to raise children, to grow old, to get help during a time of need?

And what about health care? What services could benefit from improvements?

These are just a few of the questions on a survey being rolled out to help address the major health and community issues for Wayne County. The public is being asked to respond to the 10- to 15-minute online questionnaire, while supplemental focus groups in area communities will also be held through next month to spark further conversation.

Wednesday marked the second gathering at Lane Tree Golf Club and Conference Center, hosted by Wayne Memorial Hospital and Wayne County Health Department as part of an effort to develop the Wayne County Community Health Assessment.

Preliminary data has already been gathered from the initial meeting held in January, as well as three focus groups, held at WATCH, Community Soup Kitchen and a Latino market, said Dr. Kim Larson, a member of the Board of Health.

Seven more focus group sessions are being set up, she said. They have been scheduled for May 21 at Grantham Fire Station; May 21 at Wayne County Public Library; May 31 at Pinewood FD; June 4 at Fremont FD; June 14 at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base medical group; June 19 at Dudley FD; and June 21, Seven Springs FD.

The ultimate goal is to improve Wayne County's status as a healthy community, said Rebecca Craig, chief financial officer at Wayne Memorial Hospital.

"Wayne County is ranked 59 out of 100 counties," she told the group.

The status, reflected at www.countyhealthrankings.org, was released in April and based upon 2009 data.

One of the most alarming statistics on the list, Dr. Larson pointed out, was the category of "limited access to healthy foods."

"We ranked 78 out of 100 counties," she said. "Some people say our produce is going out of the county."

Dr. Larson said the information is not reflective of what is being done in this county -- including farmers markets and efforts to distribute and make fresh produce more readily available.

"I think Wayne County is a resource-rich county," she said. "We just have to get these resources to people."

Davin Madden, health director, suggested the ranking is merely a guide.

"This document is really to be used as a tool to look at from a county's perspective," he said. "I don't consider it a label for Wayne County or any other county.

"We're not just being evaluated as an individual county. We're being gauged with 99 other counties."

It is unwise to make comparisons between larger counties, which have not only geographical differences but economic ones as well. And, he added, when areas such as Wake and Mecklenburg counties make changes and shifts occur, there will be a domino effect, affecting the ranking order.

"Do not let it label us to where we are," he urged.

Mandee Lancaster, from the office of engagement, innovation and economic development at East Carolina University, explained the importance of the public survey.

Based on the existing "Healthy Carolinians" survey, several questions inherent to Wayne County were added, she explained.

"We need at least 600 responses," she said.

"I would like to see 1,000 so that it really mirrors Wayne County," added Mrs. Craig.

In addition to the online survey, paper versions are being developed for those who may not have access to a computer, Ms. Lancaster said. They are also being translated into Spanish.

At the next meeting on the community health assessment, scheduled for Aug. 8, the group will evaluate focus group and survey responses, Mrs. Craig said. Then on Oct. 30, the public will be invited to attend a presentation on the findings in Moffatt Auditorium at Wayne Community College.

To participate in the survey, type the following link into the web browser: http://tinyurl.com/WCHNA.