08/12/12 — Health survey identifies problems

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Health survey identifies problems

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 12, 2012 1:50 AM

With 10 focus group meetings held over the summer and responses to a community survey having been received, county health officials are now sifting through the data to determine how to make Wayne County a healthier place.

In January, representatives from agencies and organizations across Wayne County began meeting to form The Wayne County Community Health Needs Assessment, and among the group's first orders of business was to design a survey to help determine strengths in the community, health concerns of residents and resources needed.

At a meeting Wednesday at Lane Tree Golf Club, the representatives discussed the next steps and success of the public surveys, collected through July.

"It's been wonderful to be part of that leadership team," said Dr. Kim Larson, chairman of the Wayne County Board of Health. "We received over 1,100 online surveys from the general population to help us plan for the future, which is about 500 more than we thought we would get. That's how many they got in Pitt County. That was our benchmark."

Hard copies of the surveys have not been tallied, so the final number could top 1,300, added Rebecca Craig, chief financial officer at Wayne Memorial Hospital.

The one-hour focus group sessions, eliciting comments from geographically representative residents, were held at such locations as the Community Soup Kitchen, Wayne County Public Library, on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and at several fire stations. Eighty-six participants weighed in on eight questions about community health.

Another focus group, for the growing Haitian population in the southern end of the county, is being planned for September.

From results gathered so far, many agreed that there is a "friendliness" and "connectedness" appeal to living here, with options such as churches and parks, as well as the Boys & Girl Clubs and the YMCA affording opportunities to stay healthy.

At the same time, there are serious health problems that must be addressed.

The common ones mentioned ranged from drugs and alcohol to obesity, mental health issues, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

Some focus groups took the question a step further. The group on base expressed concerns about gang problems, while those meeting at Seven Springs Fire Department said teen pregnancies and hypertension and the gathering at the Grantham fire department cited STDs in high school.

Obstacles to keeping residents healthy mostly centered around issues of transportation, costs associated with eating and living healthy, poverty and lack of education.

Unique points made by the focus groups, though, included distance from services, raised at the Grantham gathering; the significant loss of doctors in Wayne County, mentioned by the group at the library; doctors not taking Medicare, brought up at the Fremont fire station meeting; and lack of parental support, those meeting at the Dudley fire department said.

Officials are still going through the surveys and plan to meet again in October. The public will then be invited to attend a presentation on Oct. 30 at 5:30 p.m. in Moffatt Auditorium at Wayne Community College.

Other efforts are being considered as well -- including publication of a community health resource guide -- and Mrs. Craig said she is backing efforts for walk and bike trails, as well as the proposed Greenway project in the county.

She said there is great potential to connect all segments of the county with biking and hiking trails.

Brandon Hill, planning technician with the county recently hired for that project, is a graduate of East Carolina University and had worked with the Greenville Greenway network. He has already met with several groups in the county to promote a similar plan here.

"Brandon put up a map at the Y (with the proposed trails)," said John Richmond, chief executive officer of the YMCA. "The conversation that has generated is just amazing. Ten to 15 people a day stick their head in the office, 'Where's this? What's the process?'"

"It's getting them talking about the value of it," said Mrs. Craig.