Health issues in focus

Published 1:05 am Friday, January 27, 2012

For the next four years, Beaufort County’s health workers will focus their education efforts on helping the county’s residents prevent chronic diseases, manage their weight and prevent deaths from cancer.
Those goals were established following a yearlong survey, the Beaufort County Community Health Assessment, conducted by the Beaufort County Health Department in 2011.
Planning is under way for several events this year that will help residents get more information about these three issues, according to Kelli Russell, preparedness coordinator and a human-services planner with the department.
Findings from the survey were presented to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners and other community leaders. The findings were made available to the public at several locations throughout the county.
The survey, which must be conducted every four years, helps local health workers determine the community’s health needs, what services are available to fill those needs and, ultimately, fill any gaps that exist between needs and available services, Russell said.
“If you don’t know what you have and don’t have, you don’t know where you need to go,” Russell said.
One of the education goals in 2011 stayed the same as those identified by a similar survey conducted in 2007, when health workers identified heart disease, cancer and affordable health care among the county’s needs, Russell said.
Beginning in April 2011, copies of the survey were distributed at more than 25 locations throughout Beaufort County for respondents to complete, and one-on-one interviews were conducted at locations throughout the county, she said.
The survey included 51 questions asking respondents to rate the quality of life in Beaufort County, areas for improvement, their personal health and access to care along with demographic information.
The department received 1,100 surveys in 2011, more than twice as many as in 2007, and, of those returned in 2011, 52 were discarded because they were incomplete or determined to be from respondents living outside of the county, Russell said.
From those surveys, a team of individuals representing 13 county agencies identified 10 issues that were of most concern to local residents, and, in October, 2011, that team narrowed that list to the top three health-care issues to target for the department’s education efforts, Russell said.
While some of the responses could have been expected, some of the answers were surprising or even contradicted one another, Russell said.
While most of the respondents — 32 percent — said people in their communities need more information about nutrition and eating well, many respondents said their children needed more information about drug abuse, with nutrition finishing fourth in their concerns.
Those results have led Russell and others to question whether parents understand the link between proper childhood nutrition and good health later in life.
“We really need to be focusing on the children because they are going to be the future of Beaufort County,” she said.
Among the survey’s other findings:
• Some 61 percent of respondents reported good health care, generally, in Beaufort County, but 17 percent did not agree that good health care is available here.
• About 82 percent of respondents said they had no problems getting health care they needed, but of those who said they had problems, more than 22 percent said they couldn’t find dental care and about 20 percent said they couldn’t find a family doctor.
• Of those who had trouble finding health care, more than 38 percent said it was because they did not have health insurance; more than 12 percent said their insurance didn’t cover the care they needed and more than 9 percent said their share of the cost was too high for them to afford.
• While more than 39 percent of respondents identified their health as excellent or very good, nearly 40 percent of respondents said they had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and some 30 percent said they were overweight or obese.
• Fewer than 18 percent of respondents reported that they smoked, and nearly two-thirds of those described their current health as fair or poor.
• More than 250 people, or 38.5 percent of those who answered the question, identified low income and poverty as the one issue most affecting the quality of life in Beaufort County.
• Some 217 people, or 23 percent of those who answered the question, identified the availability of employment as the service that needs the most improvement in their neighborhood.
• Overall, some 73 percent of respondents said that feelings of sadness or worry had not kept them from going about their daily activities, but nearly 40 percent of those with annual incomes less than $15,000 said those feelings had affected them.
• More than 47 percent of respondents said they did not have a basic emergency supply kit in their homes, but some 46 percent of respondents said they did have a kit. And 78 percent of respondents said they would evacuate if authorities asked them to do so.
Results of the 2011 Community Health Assessment are available at the Beaufort County Health Department website at