01/15/13 — County health needs presented

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County health needs presented

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 15, 2013 1:46 PM

After a year's worth of meetings, 10 focus groups and 1,400 surveys collected, preliminary findings of the Wayne County Health Needs Assessment were presented Monday night at Wayne Community College.

The only thing missing was the public.

Health Director Davin Madden made a cursory sweep of the three dozen people in the audience and acknowledged that most there were already involved in the health of the community.

"That's part of the things we need to work on -- community involvement," he said. "It would be nice to see all these seats filled up with people."

While Wayne County can boast a strong collaboration between agencies and a willingness to work together on issues, the needs are expansive, Madden said.

At the same time, he pointed out that areas the county struggles in are probably no different than other counties in eastern North Carolina.

Despite the lackluster turnout, organizers plowed through some of the data gathered since the combined Health Department and Wayne Memorial Hospital-led effort began last January.

Dr. Kim Larson of the Board of Health touted the year's worth of work that entailed weekly emails, monthly meetings and bringing together 43 stakeholders from agencies and organizations around the county.

"What we envisioned all last year were how important the stakeholders were," she said. "What we want you to do is continue to see that in your mind's eyes so that once there's a wealth of data in here from a lot of different directions."

Representatives from the Center for Survey Research Office of Innovation and Economic Development at East Carolina University presented findings gleaned from the surveys and focus groups.

"Our focus areas we talked about, we looked at the realm of everything," said Mandee Foushee Lancaster, Center director.

She boiled the county's top issues into two categories, social indicators, which include poverty, crime and lack of education, and health indicators, which cover lack of access to health care, mental health and health conditions/chronic diseases.

Zach Love, graduate assistant at ECU, shared the leading causes of death in Wayne County -- while cancer represents 25 percent, followed by heart disease at 18 percent, 41 percent are in the "other" category, which includes unintentional death or suicide.

Obesity is also among the most "astounding" findings, he added, with 72 percent of surveyors admitting to being overweight to obese, compared to the state rate, which is currently at 65 percent.

Rebecca Craig, vice president of finance and chief financial officer at Wayne Memorial Hospital, said there are still many positive things going on around the county.

She cited several initiatives, including the formation of Goldsboro Partners Against Crime, adult literacy programs, increased diabetes education, additional health providers being recruited to the area as well as the addition of graduation coaches at select middle and high schools, community gardens and efforts to obtain grants for a paved greenway walking and bike trail.

"We're in the process of having to decide which of these initiatives will get the attention and move Wayne County to the next level," she said.

Ms. Larson lauded the partnership forged between the hospital, Health Department and ECU.

"We want that to continue," she said. "The Health Department plans to take this information to develop our three-year strategic plan."

The document in its entirety will be posted early next month on the Health Department and hospital websites, she said, with hopes to garner further feedback from the public.

Attendee Jimmie Ford asked where Wayne County stacks up in taking such steps to improve its community health.

"This is good but have we taken the lead in doing this?" he said.

"Every four years the state of North Carolina requires the Health Department to do a community health assessment," Ms. Larson explained. "With the new Affordable Care Act, the law requires the hospital to do it. This is the first time that we did one together. We believe it's the best community health assessment Wayne County has ever seen.

"Probably because of the law, other counties will be following suit. Because it's every four years, Wayne County might be one of the first. Every county has to do this."