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Navigating Health and Aging: Assessment lays out community's health needs

As a community, we are fortunate to have The Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County, Inc. committed to improving our health. The Partnership is a nonprofit which was formed in 1999 by Carroll Hospital Center and the Health Department in response to a community needs assessment. At the time, the Partnership became the coordinating hub that connects agencies, nonprofits and individuals in pursuit of a healthier community.

Sixteen years later, the Partnership is still a pioneer in assessing the needs of the community. As a part of The Affordable Care Act, nonprofit hospitals are now required to perform an assessment every three years. The Partnership began evaluating the priorities for health and services long before it was mandated. As a result, initiatives have been put in place for the health improvement process through leadership teams and action teams. These teams create goals or benchmarks to reach an area where there is a known need.

The 2012 Health Needs Assessment surveyed approximately 1,000 community members (through a household survey). This survey also included community leaders and focus groups that included older adults, African Americans, Hispanics and low income individuals. The results were presented Wednesday at the "We're on Our Way" forum. The theme for this annual event was "Keep It Moving." The theme, derived from the needs assessment, addresses the Partnership's goal to get us all as a community active and moving.

Why has this been identified to be so important to our community? What do the goals of the needs assessment survey mean to us?

The process identified twenty common themes or prevalent issues which need improvement. Some of the targeted improvements include: age discrimination, alcohol in excess, arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, flu, health-care transportation, heart disease, help in understanding doctors (language barriers) and motor vehicle deaths.

The Partnership identified seven top priorities to work on improving over the next three years. These are obesity, diabetes, heart disease, mental health, cancer, lack of exercise and substance abuse.

The Leadership and Action Teams for access to health care, behavioral health, elder health and prevention and intervention will begin the work of reducing and preventing chronic illnesses, improving access to care, lowering cancer rates, budging obesity and heart disease statistics and improving the quality of all of our lives.

It sounds like a daunting job doesn't it?

Through the work of the Partnership and community members, the goal of making our community a healthier one is attainable. The Partnership will be working to reduce the numbers and improve the statistics by getting us moving and improving our nutrition as an initial step in this process.

As the health-care climate continues to change and evolve, the Partnership will be leading the way to fulfill its vision to be the leader in healthy community strategies implemented by the Carroll County, Maryland, community to achieve the highest level of health possible.

To follow the progress of our community and locate resources, visit the Partnership's website at http://www.HealthyCarroll.org.

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