Health needs reexamined
February 14, 2012
Tobacco use, chronic disease rates and dental care are all areas the Summit County Health Department hopes to address after completing a needs-assessment survey that revealed gaps in its programming for Summit County residents.
The needs-assessment survey consists of public data, focus groups and surveys of Summit County residents to pinpoint underserved demographics, policy problems, and program shortages.
Richard Bullough, director of the Summit County Health Department, said the survey revealed no major surprises but did confirm some of the health department’s suspicions.
"We found out our dental services are lacking for all demographics more so than we thought," Bullough said. "We have received grants for dental programs in the past and, based on this information, we are going to try to expand upon that grant and increase our dental programs."
Bullough said the survey also showed a continuing need for the county to focus on residents who are underinsured.
"We have the People’s Health Clinic for those who are uninsured, but people who are just underinsured or have co-pays that are higher than they can afford have few resources," he said. "I think the underinsured are falling through the cracks across every demographic. We need to find the funding to be able to provide them with preventive care and vaccines."
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Recently, the Summit County Health Department shifted its resources so it could continue to provide vaccines to children who were underinsured after the federal government cut the funding for the program.
The Health Department will be expanding on the needs assessment survey to include more focus groups with youth and Latinos, two groups that were not represented in the assessment as much as Bullough would have liked.
"We did find out through anecdotal evidence that the youth in the entire county have issues with prescription and recreational drugs, so we really want to gain more information on that," he said. "This is not something that is just happening in the West Side of the county, it is taking place everywhere. People assume it is just a Park City problem but that is not true."
The Health Department has decided to team up with Valley Mental Health to increase awareness of this growing problem, come up with preventive measures and expand their youth and drug services.
"I am not happy with the tobacco rate in this county and want to do something about that," Bullough said. "We are seeing progress, but no matter how low tobacco rates are, they can always be lower. Based on our data, chewing tobacco especially has a higher rate than I would like."
According to the Health Department’s data, 6.8 percent of adults in Summit County smoke. The overall rate in Utah is 8.8 percent. The latest data also indicate that 17 percent of 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students in Summit County have tried cigarettes and that five percent have used them in the past 30 days.
Bullough said not all the news was bad. The Health Department programs to improve women’s health, decrease chronic disease and increase preventive care all appear to be working.
The Health Department plans on expanding the needs assessment survey and creating a strategic plan by the spring.
To see the results of the need-assessment survey, visit http://www.summitcountyhealth.org.