Time for Caldwell County's 3-year checkup

Jan. 09, 2014 @ 08:32 AM

Since 2011, Caldwell County’s graduation rates have increased, teen pregnancy rates have dropped, and increase options for finding fresh produce are helping to curve obesity rates, thanks in part to efforts that followed the county’s last community health assessment.

Every three years, counties in North Carolina are mandated by the state to conduct a health assessment. Caldwell's last was 2011, so it's time for another.

Brittany Crump, health education supervisor at Caldwell County Health Department, said the assessment is a large task, taking about a year and a half, from gathering data to implementing action plans.

The objective is to identify factors that affect the health of a population and determine what resources are available to address those issues, Crump said in a press release.

For this year’s assessment, the health department is partnering with Caldwell Memorial Hospital, which is required by the Internal Revenue Service to do an assessment every three years, Crump said.

The first phase is a survey of local residents, asking questions on what has the greatest effect on the quality of life in the county, what their major health concerns are, frequency of emergency room use, behaviors in the community and other similar questions.

“The reason for the survey is to look at what resources we have and what the public believes the issues are in our community,” Crump said. “What we want most is for people to participate in the survey – to have a voice.”

Survey responses will be evaluated alongside other data, taken by the state and other organizations, to identify the top three concerns for Caldwell County.

The 2011 study identified obesity, teen pregnancy and graduation rates as the main concerns. The health department then worked with community organizations to develop efforts such as the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, which helps put fresh vegetables and fruit in convenience stores, and worked with the downtown Lenoir and Sawmills farmers markets to accept debit and food-stamp cards.

The health department must have at least 200 surveys completed and will be accepting them until March 31.

Once all the data is gathered and priorities identified, the health department will create a report to be submitted to the state and made available to the public in December, before working with community organizations to develop an action plan, which could be finished by May 2015.

The community health assessment survey takes less than five minutes to complete. The survey is available online at the county’s website, caldwellcountync.org, and at the health department, Caldwell County offices, the public library, Caldwell Memorial Hospital and other community organizations. For more information, contact the Caldwell County Health Department at 828-426-8400.