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Partnership seeks to identify Carroll County community’s health needs in triennial survey

The Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County wants to know what your health care needs are and how they can better assist in meeting those needs.

The Partnership, an affiliate of Carroll Hospital and the Carroll County Health Department, is a private nonprofit organization that works to improve health by connecting people, inspiring action, and strengthening community, according to the organization’s website. The Partnership is conducting an online Community Health Needs Assessment survey allowing residents to indicate those health care needs.

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Dorothy Fox, executive director and CEO of The Partnership, said the survey is completed every three years and has three components — an online survey, focus groups, and a key informant survey. Focus groups in specific populations are asked to indicate health issues that directly relate to their communities and the key informant portion details the health care needs of community stakeholders.

“We will ask everything from their exercise and eating habits, new medications they may be on to diseases they may have been diagnosed with,” Fox said. “We’re asking about specific health issues and that way we can get a good feel for where we need to put some of our resources into what we’re seeing.”

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The survey started July 1 and the deadline was extended to the end of September. After the necessary data is collected, The Partnership will compile the information into a report and complete a prioritization process, pulling in leaders with backgrounds in health as well as members of the Board of Directors at both Carroll Hospital and The Partnership.

Fox said the Carroll County Health Department is a strategic partner with The Partnership and will also be invited to participate in the prioritization process.

“We present these leaders with all the data and we prioritize what we’re going to work on,” Fox said. "We usually narrow that down and we develop what we call a community benefit and health improvement plan, which is a really long title, but we develop this plan.

“In this plan, we talk about what’s been prioritized and how we’re going to address it over the next three years.”

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Fox said this process is critical because the results of the survey are used to allocate resources for developing strategic plans for Carroll Hospital, the Heath Department, and other nonprofit organizations in the community.

In 2016, The Partnership stationed chalkboards throughout the county where members of the community could write answers to what a healthy community meant to them. The boards acted as a canvas to collect information and were positioned in indoor and outdoor locations around the county to make them easily accessible.

“I consider it a privilege to actually be a part of this and go out into our focus groups and into the community to collect this information,” Fox said. "We really do hear the needs of the community through this and we’re able to get their voices heard by the leaders in the community. They take it seriously and read through these reports very seriously.

“I do think it’s important, not only for allocation of resources, but for understanding perceptions and being able to develop a plan that would better fit our community specifically for its needs.”

The Partnership is continuing to seek out new and creative ways to engage the community in how they distribute their surveys. Fox said there has been a repeat of people coming back to both the focus groups and key informants, but the coronavirus pandemic threw a slight wrench in the way The Partnership could run its focus groups.

“We’re still getting out there, we’re just doing more groups,” Fox said. “We’re still reaching the same populations and we’ve actually added some populations this year to our targeted area that we felt were missed. We’re constantly trying to improve the survey each cycle.”

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