Community report outlines key health care needs in Monterey County – Salinas Valley Tribune

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MONTEREY COUNTY — After months of data collection and tremendous community input, the Monterey County Health Needs Collaborative last week released the results of a comprehensive assessment of population health and health needs in Monterey County.

The Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) highlights known public health needs such as diabetes, nutrition and heart disease. The report also demonstrates the need to address issues of access to health care, and calls attention to the need for resources and increased awareness about behavioral health and substance use.

For the first time, six organizations have joined forces to jointly identify the nation’s greatest health needs. Collaborating partners include Monterey Peninsula Community Hospital, Salinas Valley Memorial Health System, Mee Memorial Health System, Natividad, Monterey County Health Department and United Way Monterey District.

The Hospital Council of Northern and Central California, along with professional opinion research consultants, were instrumental in conducting the CHNA.

“The Hospital Council of Northern and Central California is proud to be a part of this collaboration,” said Joe Coffaro, Regional Vice President of the Hospital Council. “The Health Needs Assessment is another tool in the toolbox for hospitals, the county and our community partners to use to improve the health of all Monterey County residents.”

The CHNA drew on input from key stakeholders, telephone interviews, online surveys, and secondary data such as census data and vital statistics. The assessment took into account more than 200 indicators in six areas, including region, age, gender, race/ethnicity, income level and sexual orientation.

Between March and May, responses in English and Spanish were received from 3,149 surveys, including 801 telephone surveys and 2,348 online community outreach surveys.

On September 15, the Monterey County Health Needs Collaborative convened an online meeting attended by 136 community leaders representing a variety of community providers, agencies and organizations. During the meeting, these stakeholders helped to assess, discuss and prioritize community health issues based on the findings of the CHNA.

Professional research consultants began the meeting with a presentation of CHNA’s key findings, highlighting the significant health issues identified by the study. After the presentation of the results, the meeting participants were asked to rank the health problems according to the severity and scale, as well as the ability of the organizations to solve the health problems.

The following questions were organized in order of priority:

  1. Diabetes mellitus
  2. Mental health
  3. Access to health services
  4. Nutrition, physical activity and weight
  5. Heart disease and stroke
  6. Substance use
  7. Housing
  8. Infant Health and Family Planning
  9. Trauma and violence
  10. cancer
  11. Potentially disabling conditions.

In addition to the comprehensive report on Monterey County, Collaborative partners receive reports focused on specific geographic regions of the primary and core service areas, all of which are available for public viewing and use. It is noted that the priorities of health care needs may differ in different areas of the organization’s services.

A selection of findings

Monterey County’s self-reported health status shows that 10% identify as having excellent health, 71% as having very good or good health, and 19% as having fair or poor health.

The prevalence of diabetes is highest in the Salinas area (15% of the population), exceeding both the state (9.8%) and the United States (13.8%) prevalence rates. Diabetes is also most prominent in the 65-year-old age group, reaching 20%.

Mental health indicators in Monterey County show that 34% of county residents consider themselves to be in good or poor mental health, 24% report being diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, and more than half (51%) report experiencing symptoms of chronic depression. The categories most affected by symptoms of chronic depression include women, people aged 18-39, people with very low and low incomes, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Over the past four years, the rate of unintentional drug-related deaths has risen in Monterey County to 15 per 100,000. That’s equal to the state rate and below the national average of 21 per 100,000. More women in the county (47%) say that at their lives were negatively affected by drug use by themselves or by someone other than men (33%).

A significantly higher percentage of Monterey County residents report barriers to accessing health care than is reported nationwide. Almost 53% expressed problems just getting to a doctor’s appointment (15% nationwide); 36% of respondents had seen a doctor (9% nationwide), 34% said that inconvenient work hours were a barrier (13% nationwide), and 30% reported that the cost of a doctor’s visit was a barrier (13 % throughout the country).

While 31% of county residents overall indicated they would not be able to pay $400 in cash for an emergency expense, that number was higher in South County (35%) and Salinas (34%) than on the Monterey Peninsula (24 %).

Additionally, 28% of county residents believe it is very difficult to purchase fresh produce at an affordable price, with residents of Salinas County and South County suffering disproportionately.

The leading cause of death in Monterey County in 2020 (the latest county statistics) was cancer (18.2%), followed by heart disease (17.9%), while Covid-19 came in third (8.5 %). Oncological diseases are most often detected at the age of 65 and older (27.7%).

I look forward to it

Last month, United Way Monterey County presented each member of the Monterey County Health Needs Collaborative with a Community Impact Award for their partnership that led to the creation of CHNA.

“This joint effort has been years in the making. These results give us real-world data to strengthen and initiate meaningful efforts to improve the health of our community,” said Kathy Castagna, president and CEO of United Way Monterey County. “Partnerships and engagement are the keys to measurable change, and these actors working together have laid an impressive foundation to build on.”

Each organization will use the detailed reports to set health priorities in geographic regions and develop implementation strategies by the end of November.

Organization-specific and strategic partnerships have been successful in raising awareness and addressing health needs such as Covid-19 vaccination, diabetes prevention programs, increasing access to health care and serving the health needs of diverse populations. The collaborative partners said they are committed to improving and partnering to meet and impact public health needs.

Follow the link to download the full report healthmontereycounty.org.

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