By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
In March 2013, four people began the process of conducting a community health assessment for Seward County.
Health department administrator Martha Brown said the assessment is a requirement for public health accreditation. She said the process is something that needs to be done every three to five years, and through the assessment will come a community health improvement plan.
This is the first time for the group of Brown, health department contract employee Susan Lukwago, clinic nursing supervisor Charly Madden and health department employee Leticia Arredondo to conduct an assessment.
With this in mind, what Brown called the core team met several times to discuss going about the process.
“We attended three sessions in Dodge City, conducted by the Kansas Health Institute, on how we were to go about doing it,” she said. “They had suggestions about who should be on your team, who you should work with in this process. We attended these technical assistance programs.”
The core team then asked people in the community to participate in the process. Brown said about 25 people have been to all or part of four meetings to help conduct the survey.
“We did a questionnaire that we had available at the Five State Fair,” she said. “We had it online. All of the team members have shared with our own groups online, with our friends, the groups that we’re involved in to try to get as large a response as we possibly could.”
That survey had a lot of basic demographic questions about things such as ethnicity, age, education levels, children and insurance.
“After all this data was collected, we compiled it,” Brown said. “We identified statistically, according to the responses that people made, the six highest priorities that people identified as being issues within our community they felt were problems that should be addressed in some way – teen pregnancy, drugs, alcohol, lack of health insurance, not enough doctors to see people that did not have health insurance and lack of affordable housing. We took that information to our larger team.”
Brown said the group is trying to decide if all of the issues need to be addressed by the entire group or have each item discussed by sections of the group.
“We do have some goals set for some of them,” she said. “We may definitely focus more on one than another.”
The administrator did say one of the issues is already being addressed. The health department received a grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment dealing with teen pregnancy.
“It’s Teen Pregnancy Targeted Case Management,” Brown said. “It’s a case management model to work with teenagers that are either pregnant or have recently given birth.”
Brown said the grant will help decrease the county’s teen pregnancy rate through goals set by teens, education and medical and work status. She said this helps teens come up with ways to achieve those goals.
“Some of them don’t have the resources they need to care for their babies or to go to their doctor’s appointment,” she said. “Maybe they need babysitting. The person that works with them will try to help in any way they can to make sure they have healthy babies when they’re born and they remain healthy children and the moms can postpone another pregnancy.”
Brown said the assessment and the health improvement plan are not completely finished yet.
“It’s the very early stages of it,” she said. “We’ve asked all of the members of our team to take this information back to their groups, their places of employment, their friends, their churches and visit with people about ideas they might have to address some of these issues. We will, when we meet again, try to decide if we’re going to do this as a team approach or just a small group approach or see if we’re going to narrow it down to see how exactly we’re going to go about achieving some of this.”
Brown said the assessment is not something that will end this year, but rather, it is an ongoing operation.
“The process will begin again in three to five years,” she said. “You have to have some goals and objectives about these different issues. You have to have a way to measure the results of what you’ve done. You have to have a time frame with it so you know you can revisit it and say we’re not making the progress we hoped to so we need to do something a little different.”
Brown said the health department will not fix everything, and she said the community needs to work together to make sure efforts are not being duplicated.
“It’s better to make sure we’re all in this together and not worrying about who gets the credit for what,” she said. “We need to do it as a community and try to make a difference. It’s doing what’s good for all of us.”
Brown said the core team would like to educate the public on the assessment and the health improvement plan.
“If they’re interested in us doing some sort of presentation about our process or where we are or people that have ideas that would like to be in on some of what we do, please contact us,” she said. “We’d love to have more people involved. I’m excited about what we’ve done and where we’re going with this. If people want more information, some of us in the group would be happy to speak with anybody about it.”
Brown, Lukwago, Madden and Arredondo can be reached at 626-3369.