The Champaign Health District and Community Mercy Health Partners are busy collecting data for Champaign County’s next Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP).
Citing a desire to improve on this year’s county health ranking, determined by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, county Health Commissioner Jeff Webb is changing the focus of the next CHIP. Instead of a broad look at the county as a whole, the upcoming CHIP will zero in on specific communities Webb is calling “block groups.”
“Our county is ranked 46th in the state in the county health rankings, and we’d like to do better than that,” Webb said. “We feel that in order to move the needle, we have to take a different approach.”
The county’s current CHIP, Webb said, was developed in 2012 using data from a community needs assessment in which the data was a representation of the entire county.
“We’ve had some modest successes from that approach, but we felt we really needed to identify specific areas in the community where we have high health disparities or places where there are higher health issues,” he said.
To determine which areas or “block groups” would be used, Webb said, the health district and Mercy Memorial partnered to gather up-to-date data through a health needs assessment, which consisted of a youth survey (conducted in all county school districts except Graham), an adult survey and secondary data.
While the same youth survey was used as in the past, Webb said, a change was made to the adult behavioral risk survey, conducted in the past over the telephone.
“We decided not to do that this time because people are dropping their landlines, and it’s very hard to do a survey of all age groups if all you have is primarily senior citizens with landlines.
“Instead, the hospital sent a short survey out to households in the county, and that seemed to work pretty good. We also put the survey online, and we did get the numbers that we needed across the age spectrum.”
The final part of the three-part assessment process – secondary data – was conducted by Gabe Jones, an epidemiologist hired by the health district through the Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant.
“By the sound of it, secondary data sounds like it’s not as important as the other data we collected,” Webb said. “Actually, it’s information like birth data, death data, hospital data and cancer morbidity trends. It’s information we need to have to have a good assessment.”
‘Block groups’ identified
Using the data collected through the health needs assessment conducted earlier this year, the four communities of Champaign County identified as having the most health disparities are southeast Urbana (fairgrounds area), the area along South U.S. Route 68 from Lewis B. Moore Drive in Urbana to the county line, the North Lewisburg area and the Thackery area.
“What we are doing now is using the Community Health Assessment and Group Evaluation (CHANGE) tool and going out to these areas to collect information,” Webb said, adding the information gathering period will involve focus groups, talking with the residents living in those “block groups,” taking pictures of the areas and identifying environmental situations that need improvement to be conducive to “a higher health status.”
“We want to concentrate on those people who really need our time and resources,” he said.
Webb noted not every community has the same health issues, so he’s eager to see what type of information is gathered using the CHANGE tool.
“One community might have issues with health outcomes or health behaviors, while one area might have high use of tobacco or obesity issues that could lead to things like diabetes,” he said. “Other parts of the county might have issues with cardiovascular disease.
“Each area has its own issues, which you would expect to see. Some areas these communities are fine in, but other areas like health behaviors they might need more education on better health behaviors,” Webb added.
The plan is to have the CHANGE tool complete by the end of the year to allow the CHIP to be developed in early 2016.
“I’m excited about our upcoming health improvement plan,” Webb said. “It’s certainly different from the approach we’ve taken in the past.”
According to Webb, volunteers have collected data in the North Lewisburg area, and Urbana University students have agreed to help gather information in the southeast Urbana area.
“We believe if we focus on the certain areas of the community that have high health disparities, we’ll be able to raise our health status more effectively,” Webb said. “Maybe instead of being ranked 46th in the state, we can be up around 20th. Our ranking is similar to those of Madison and Logan counties, but we’d like to be up with the likes of Darke County (ranked 20th), which is a county similar to us.”
The top five healthiest counties in Ohio according to the health rankings are Delaware, Putnam, Geauga, Medina and Union. Lawrence County, the southernmost in Ohio, was ranked last, with Adams, Scioto, Pike and Gallia counties near the bottom.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.