Wyandotte County residents, community leaders, and public health workers offered mixed reviews of a new, detailed assessment of the community’s health status.
Their feedback is included in the summary findings of the report from the Wyandotte Health for All Task Force (www.wy4health.org), which conducted the study between last fall and this spring. The task force is a joint effort of the Wyandotte County Public Health Department, the University of Kansas Medical Center, the KU Work Group For Community Health & Development, and El Centro.
In a survey of residents, just 9 percent of the respondents agreed that Wyandotte is a healthy county. Nearly half of those who responded expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of life.
However, focus group participants said a strong sense of community and trust among neighbors were positive features of the county.
In areas such as education and recreation, the focus groups identified both strengths and weaknesses.
“This is encouraging,” the report said, “because it would suggest that the community has resources and assets to address some of these areas of need.”
The task force is gathering public feedback on the findings, including at a forum held last week at the Wyandotte County Public Health Department.
The task force report comes on the heels of another community health analysis conducted through Healthy Communities Wyandotte, a coalition of residents and local leaders. The coalition issued its recommendations in October (http://www.wycokck.org/InternetDept.aspx?id=31732).
The Wyandotte Health for All Task Force study assessed: community themes and strengths, “forces of change,” and the effectiveness of the local public health system. It also compiled health data on the county.
Among the noted problems cited by community leaders were poverty and the overburdened safety-net health care system. But the report also noted as opportunities the high awareness of what constitutes healthy behavior and reduced crime.
The study also drew on information collected from a daylong session where public health workers critiqued their own performance against model standards.
According to the critique, they performed best in diagnosing and investigating health problems and health hazards. The responses indicated they were meeting about 79 percent of the optimum tasks. The lowest performance rate of 24 percent came in assuring a competent health care workforce.
Other areas of high priority but low performance, as identified by the participants were:
• Informing, educating and empowering people about health issues
• Mobilizing community partnerships to identify and solve health problems
• Researching new insights and innovative solutions to health problems
Friday’s gathering drew about 30 participants. The task force plans to hold its fourth and final forum on Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Kansas City Kansas Community College, 7250 State Ave., on the lower level of the Jewell Building.
The task force’s schedule calls for release of a final report next month and a follow-up action plan in September.
Terrie Garrison, program manager for the Family Planning and Prenatal Clinic in the Wyandotte County Public Health Department, said she preferred to focus on the positives, such as the community pride expressed in parts of the assessment.
“It’s nice to feel like people have not just given up,” Garrison said following the Friday forum. “You kind of feel like there is hope, that you can move forward.”
Public Health Director Joe Connor said the task force findings complemented the recommendations that came out of Healthy Communities Wyandotte. Whereas the earlier effort delved into details such as the benefits of providing mentors for students, Connor said task force members stepped back to look at improving systems.
He also found it helpful that the task force framed the issue as one of quality of life as opposed to medical care.
“If we improve our quality of life,” Connor said, “such as opportunities for physical activity, opportunities for better education, opportunities for getting people linked to … the good paying jobs we have here, our quality of life is going to improve, and thus we are going to be healthier.”
The fact that the two studies touched on similar concerns was not a negative, said Caitlin McMurtry, an analyst with the Kansas Health Institute. She attended the Friday forum.
When you start hearing the same conclusions time and again, McMurtry said, it points you in the right direction to “really start gunning it down the road.”