Group seeks input on the health of Rock County

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BELOIT— The Health Equity Alliance of Rock County (HEAR) is asking community members to share what they believe are the county’s health concerns and needs.

To do this, HEAR is conducting a Community Health Assessment survey that was sent out to 2,000 Rock County residents on Jan. 15. Those wishing to fill out the survey have until March 1 to do so.

Kelly Klingensmith, community health education coordinator for the Rock County Public Health Department, said this year HEAR also created an online survey in addition to the random mailings to encourage anyone who lives, works, plays and learns in the county to participate in the survey. The survey done in 2014 only offered random mailings.

Klingensmith started working at the health department in June 2016 and helps facilitate and organize HEAR, which is comprised of local hospitals, community organizations and government entities.

“When I came to Rock County, I wanted to make sure we had a really comprehensive assessment,” Klingensmith said.

She said often times residents are more willing to go online, and surrounding counties are also facilitating online surveys.

“It’s really important that people fill out the survey, because we want people to tell us how to think (about health issues),” Klingensmith said.

She said the survey only takes about 10 minutes to complete. The online assessment covers: demographic information, health priorities, risky behaviors in the community, programs the community would like to see offered, personal health, medical insurance and dental health and insurance.

Klingensmith said the county has experienced a slight improvement in overall health. She said Rock County ranked 61 of 72 Wisconsin counties with respect to health outcomes, according to the most recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings. The annual health rankings consider health behaviors, quality of life, physical environment, access to health care and other factors. Rock County was ranked 62 of 72 in 2014.

Rock County remains constant with 15 percent of Rock County residents still reporting fair or poor health. She said the county’s mental health provider ratio significantly improved, moving from 1 provider per 1,234 people in Rock County in 2014 to 1 provider per 700 people in Rock County in 2016.

According to Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change’s 2016 Rock County Youth Risk Behavior Survey, youth alcohol, marijuana and prescription misuse also decreased by 1 percent from 2014-2016.

“The HEAR group really wants to catalyze this movement towards improved health using the 2017 Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan,” Klingensmith said. “We think if we keep this momentum, awareness and collective impact the health of Rock County will continue to improve and we will eventually increase our County Health Ranking.”

Klingensmith said HEAR will compile the data to create the 2017 Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan that’ll detail the steps Rock County and community organizations are going to take to improve the health of Rock County.

She wouldn’t be surprised if the community says alcohol and drugs are a concern, along with concerns of obesity related to diet and physical activity.

“The people that live, work and play in Rock County know what the health priorities are in the county, and so (HEAR) has the opportunity to leverage resources to improve health,” Klingensmith said.

As of Feb. 14, HEAR has received just over 400 of the randomly mailed surveys. Klingensmith is hoping for 700 responses, which is the same amount that was received in 2014. Approximately 500 people have filled out the online survey, and HEAR is hoping for 1,000 responses.

The online survey can be found here in English: http://svy.mk/2lLNJCQ. HEAR is also offering the survey in Spanish: http://svy.mk/2lPTZ9r.

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