Health officials seeking input on health needs in Clark, Champaign counties

Health agencies in Clark and Champaign counties are working to determine the area’s health needs.

Mercy Health - Springfield Regional Medical Center works with the Clark County Combined Health District and other health agencies to run an assessment every three years to determine the public health issues in the area – such as access to health care, addiction and mental health, homelessness and more, said Carolyn Young, community health director of the hospital.

“It helps us establish priorities for the coming years that we then act on as a non-profit, local hospital,” she said. “It’s an important factor… to be in line with what is happening in our community.”

Assistant health commissioner Chris Cook said that community input gathered through telephone surveys, as well as data through partnering area agencies, is used to help health organizations create plans to improve health of the county.

“It’s a blueprint for the whole community,” Cook said.

Mercy Health and the health district identified multiple goals for the area following their last round of assessments.

The hospital and health district aimed to address health issues related to chronic disease like congestive heart failure, asthma attacks, diabetes and tooth decay.

In Clark County, heart disease has been the leading cause of death with a rate consistently higher than the state’s rate in recent years. In 2015, there were 1,009 inpatient admissions for congestive heart failure, Mercy Health found through its last assessment. At that time, a total of 17.1% had more than one admission, and 37 patients had four or more admissions for a total of 198 admissions (19.6% of admissions).

The health organizations also identified goals related to nutrition, like healthful food accessibility and nutrition education. Tobacco use was also a trend area healthcare workers identified through assessments, especially tobacco use among young people.

Assessments also helped guide the health district in increasing ways to encourage Clark County residents to exercise, such as through improving public outdoor spaces through repaving basketball courts and planting wildflowers through funding from the Ohio Department of Health.

Those participating in the upcoming health assessment are going through a major “force of change” – the pandemic – which has impacted how many approach their own healthcare, Young said. As many Americans were encouraged to stay home, many fell behind on health screenings.

“Our screening numbers have have gone down significantly and that doesn’t mean that our instances of cancer haven’t maintained their rates,” she said. “We’re trying to protect our Community members from advanced cancer diagnosis and so on, but when you’re screening numbers are down, and when your visits to your primary care providers are, too. We want to make sure that people are getting into their doctors and being screened.”

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