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Mental health noted in county health survey

Creston News Advertiser - 11/2/2022

Nov. 2—Substance abuse and mental-health issues were common in a community health needs assessment for Union County held this summer. Results of the survey were shared by Union County Public Health Director Zach Woods to the county board of supervisors Monday.

"We gather data to identify problems and assets to deal with those problems," Woods said. "It is used to develop health needs improvement plan and make goals and priorities."

The survey is held every five years. The last survey in Union County was in 2016. Woods said the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the survey schedule. The survey does not include COVID-related statistics. Surveys were available from mid-July through August at various public places and events and assisted by Greater Regional Health. Woods said 297 surveys were submitted, which was more than the previous survey. The goal was to have 500 people participate.

Woods explained Union County has about 12,000 residents and 96% percent of the population is White. The median age is 40 and median income is $50,375. He said 1.9% of the population is below the poverty line. Union County has 92% of its residents with a high school diploma. Using other sources of information, the leading causes of death in Union County of those 75 and younger are cancer, heart-related issues and accidents.

He said it was common for one person from each family to complete the survey. He said 80% of the people who did the survey were female. Wood said the most common age group doing the survey were 35-50. A large majority of the people were white.

Surveys showed 41% were "somewhat healthy" as the most common answer. "The 'very healthy' was very low," he said.

Results listed the three most important factors for a healthy community are access to health, access to mental health and having a good job/economy.

The three health problems in the county are substance abuse, mental health and obesity. Three risky behaviors are illegal drug use, alcohol abuse and driving while impaired. Woods said "lack of physical activity" was only 1 vote behind.

To maintain healthy lifestyle people listed affordable wellness centers, additional recreational trails, wellness programs and more, fresh produce access. Survey takers said the quality of health care was "very good" or "fair to good."

Factors prevent people from improving their health were lack of time, motivation and finances.

"Some referred to longterm COVID and social-economic factors," he said. Also noted were people regularly getting things like a flu shot and seeing a doctor on a regular basis.

"I didn't realize mental health was that big of a deal," said supervisor Dennis Brown.

Woods said he was surprised by the substance abuse answers. "Mental health and overweight have been there for awhile," he said about past surveys.

"Maybe we are more sensitive to it," Woods said about mental health. "Substance abuse and mental health are linked in a lot of ways. We should look to address that."

Woods also wondered if the mental health answers were related to the COVID pandemic which urged people to stay away from others to prevent additional infections.

Woods said additional presentations about the survey will be made to other Union County entities before the end of the year.


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