By Pat Jenkins
Pierce County’s five most pressing health issues are mental health, substance abuse, access to quality health services, health disparities, and protecting and improving the environment.
Those are among the findings of the Pierce County Community Health Assessment, announced last Thursday by Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
The report was revealed to approximately 120 community and health leaders who gathered at University of Washington-Tacoma. The group also took initial steps toward using the information to prioritize countywide health-improvement efforts.
Among issues that were highlighted in the study were that poverty is a major health obstacle as families struggle to afford healthcare, food and a safe place to live, most deaths in Pierce County are from chronic diseases, one of every five adults countywide is a smoker, obesity rates among adults are rising, a new state law legalizing retail sales of recreational marijuana is adding to concerns about drug abuse, and some people feel negative impacts of isolation brought on by income or language barriers,
The Health Department conducted the year-long study in partnership with MultiCare Health System, Franciscan Health System and UW-Tacoma’s nursing and healthcare leadership and social work programs. Officials said the assessment process included input from community residents and leaders, plus health-related data and survey information.
The process “gave those of us who focus on our community’s health every day the opportunity to hear our own community’s vision for what better health in Pierce County would look like,” said Dr. Anthony L-T Chen, director of health for the Health Department. He said researchers learned “from diverse voices” that it’s “time for our community partners and others to work together to turn these ideas into a clear roadmap for our future.”
Officials said the way will be shown by the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) that is scheduled to emerge from the health assessment. The plan will provide information on the county’s top health priorities that community partners can use in their planning, budgets, grant writing and other efforts. The plan is expected to be finalized in June.
A copy of the Community Health Status Assessment is available at http://www.tpchd.org/files/library/569f9b9ff576d8c9.pdf