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Assessing the health of the community

By Erin Smith

Every community throughout North Carolina is interested in the health of its citizens as well as the community as a whole. Members of the Department of Health and Human Services are taking a look at what residents perceive to be the biggest health concerns in their communities versus what statistics show to be trends in the health of our communities.

The Community Health Assessment is a document that county health officials can utilize to help them to see health-related trends in their communities and to determine priorities and programming for the health department.

Marianne Valentiner, Health Educator with the Bladen County Health Department, said, “The Community Health Assessment is what we gear our programs from. We focus on those issues identified in the Community Health Assessment.”

Valentiner said this year’s community health assessment, or CHA, will look a little different from the ones performed in past years.

She explained, “Cape Fear Valley Hospital is paying for Bladen County to participate in a new Regional CHA.”

East Carolina University is assisting with the Regional CHA and compiling the document for submission, according to Valentiner.

Some trends that are being noted thus far are rates of occurrence for diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are increasing while other health issues are either holding steady or decreasing. Valentiner said data being used in the CHA this year includes data from 2016 and 2017 and in some instances data is as old as 2014 as that is the latest data available from the State.

Valentiner expects the CHA report to be released on November 29th but that won’t be the final step. She said there will still be some data sets the County will have to submit to the NC Department of Health and Human Services. Valentiner explained the State must approve the CHA document before it can be presented to the Bladen County Board of Commissioners. Valentiner expected the State to render its approval regarding the CHA in March 2019. 

Valentiner explained all the counties in North Carolina are required to do a CHA every three years and a State of the County’s Health Report each year. She said the County’s steering committee for the CHA met in February to begin the process of collecting data and gathering the necessary documentation for the CHA.

Throughout the year, the Health Department has distributed paper surveys in Spanish and English to locations throughout Bladen County, shared the survey online, shared the survey through the Healthy Bladen Collaborative, the Bladen County jury pool, and Bladen County employees. Valentiner said 400 responses to the survey were received.

Officials also conducted four focus groups. They were with the Healthy Bladen Collaborative group, the School Health Advisory Council, Health Department staff and the Terri Duncan, with Cape Fear Valley-Bladen Healthcare, conducted a focus group with a group of seniors in Clarkton.

“Since the public’s input was being received through the surveys, we chose to do our focus groups with our stakeholders and community partners,” said Valentiner.

The next step will be to receive the university’s report on November 29th and submitting the remaining documentation by the March 2019 deadline.

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