Time again for county health needs assessment


(Posted Jan. 27, 2016)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

It’s time again for the community health needs assessment. Local agencies, including Madison Health and the Madison County-London City Health District, use the data to set priorities, judge progress, and apply for grant funding.

Coordinated by Madison County Family Council, the assessment is conducted every three years. The county hires an outside firm to survey randomly selected residents on an array of health-related topics, from tobacco use to substance abuse.

Wright State University in Dayton charged $16,000 to gather the data in 2013. The university is one of three entities submitting bids to conduct the 2016 process. This time, Wright State’s bid is $19,000. Illuminology, a research and analysis firm in Columbus, bid $26,000. A third bid is expected from the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio.

About the assessment, Brenda Rock, Family Council coordinator, said, “It’s important for us to always be looking at the needs of the community and the strengths.”

Rock knows firsthand how helpful the assessment can be in securing funds to address some of those needs. She co-wrote a grant application that won Union County $125,000 a year for five years for a Drug Free Communities initiative. She said Madison County’s Drug Free Coalition wants to apply for the same federal funding. With good data in hand, she said the county has a decent chance of securing the grant.

Madison County Commissioner Paul Gross said the local coalition has strong partnerships and good intentions but little financial resources. With a Drug Free Communities grant and similar funding, the coalition “might be able to start making a big difference,” he said.

Commissioner David Dhume said scientifically attained and processed data lends credibility to any request an agency makes.

“Without the needs assessment, we can’t speak to who we are with any validity,” he said.

According to Rock, the goal is to complete the community health needs assessment by late summer or early fall. Surveys for the last assessment were conducted by phone, but a growing number of people are ditching their land lines for unlisted mobile numbers, making them harder to reach by phone. Rock said a different method of data collection might be used, such as paper surveys or focus groups.

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