Local healthcare officials accepted the challenge of identifying the top health priorities for residents in Sampson County, and have started to lay out the framework for plans to address these concerns.
Over the past year, the Sampson County Health Department and Healthy Carolinians have been gathering data through the Community Health Assessment and have made a recommendation to the Board of Health and county commissioners as to what the top health priorities are for Sampson County.
According to Luke Smith, health educator with the Health Department, based on surveys and data, the top three health priorities for Sampson County are substance abuse, STDs/sexual activity/pregnancy prevention and chronic disease.
Over the course of the next three years, the Health Department will work to address these problems.
“The Community Health Assessment, referred to as the CHA, is the foundation for improving and promoting the health of county residents,” Smith explained. “It is a fundamental tool of public health practice that aims to describe the health of the community by presenting information on health status, community health needs, resources, and other studies of current local health problems.”
As health trends are continually changing, the CHA utilizes information gathered from the assessment to identify health trends, needed resources in the area and opportunities related to improving the overall health of Sampson County residents.
Per state requirements, Smith said the Health Department will write an action plan that addresses the needs identified in the assessment. The Health Department will then work with multiple partners over the next three years to complete the action plan.
“The Sampson County Partners for Health Carolinians Task Force plays a large role in accomplishing the tasks,” Smith noted. “With representation from multiple entities across the county that includes Sampson Regional Medical Center, city and county schools, private businesses, faith-based groups, health partners, behavioral health, and community volunteers, Healthy Carolinians works diligently to provide services and information to Sampson County residents to assist in living a healthier lifestyle.”
Recognized as the top priority, Smith said substance abuse, particularly opioid abuse and related deaths, is growing quickly across the nation, including Sampson County. The second priority, STDs/sexual activity/pregnancy prevention, coincides with Sampson County ranking high across the state for the number of diagnosed sexually transmitted diseases and even higher for rates of teen pregnancy. The last priority, chronic disease, fits, as Sampson County’s chronic disease rates are higher than the state average for heart disease, stroke, obesity, and in particular, diabetes.
According to Smith, the primary data for the CHA was collected through a survey tool that contained questions that address health-related topics such as medical concerns, diet/nutrition, exercise, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, access to care, lifestyle habits and more.
“The information from the surveys and collected data indicate that a multi-team approach is needed to address the health needs of Sampson County residents,” Smith said. “The Sampson County Health Department, Sampson Regional Medical Center, the Sampson County Partners for Healthy Carolinians Task Force and other entities from across the county will work diligently to inform and educate the public and offer resources to address these needs.”
The purpose of the survey was to collect data that is representative of Sampson County’s residents, therefore, surveys were distributed to a diverse population.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Faceboook.