Peoria area health organizations identify community needs

The 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment identifies three major public health issues in the Tri-County area: active living, mental health and obesity.

The assessment is performed every three years and conducted by a partnership of Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford county health departments, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and UnityPoint Health Central Illinois.

Illinois Health Services has conducted similar assessments every few years since the 1990s, while IRS rules require nonprofit hospitals to do one as well. Monica Hendrickson, public health administrator with the city/county of Peoria Health Department, said the two groups decided to do the assessments collectively in 2016.

“We not only work to assess our community,” Hendrickson said. “But then having a long-term plan for how we address these key health priorities that we see in our community.”

Hendrickson said, for her as a public health professional, a 12% increase since 2019 in the number of people reporting feelings of depression stands out.

“A lot of data is focused, especially this cycle, on what we thought were the impacts of COVID on anxiety, depression, and everyone’s awareness of their health,” she said.

Hendrickson said there are many potential ways to increase mental health care, such as ensuring screening is adequate and access to providers is plentiful, but that may not mean a return to previous rates. of people reporting feelings of depression.

“We could also recognize the fact that the pandemic has given us an awareness and a terminology for the feelings that we might have had as a community as a whole, right? she says.

“I talk about the fact, usually when people ask me about, you know, any silver lining of the pandemic, and that’s that we’re talking about health equity and mental health around the kitchen tables. It has become part of our normal conversation to understand much more.

There are also active projects that are increasing mental health care capacity in the Tri-County area. Hendrickson cites the example of the upcoming UnityPoint Young Minds Institute.

The other two major needs of the study – obesity and active lifestyles – go hand in hand for Hendrickson. The report found that two-thirds of Tri-County residents are either overweight or obese. Hendrickson said the treatment of obesity is often in the clinical setting, but early prevention, encouraging active and healthy lifestyles, offers many possibilities.

The study also found that many people didn’t exercise regularly because they didn’t have time or a place to go to exercise. These factors were worse for people with low incomes or less education.

“You are really considering interventions that help solve this problem. Kind of doing physical activity, slightly more social activity, more community outreach,” Hendrickson said. “Then on the food side, very similar, sort of the priority areas in terms of who was affected.”

She said placing healthy food options in accessible areas and incorporating more vegetables into early childhood education are possible interventions to encourage healthy eating.

In order to begin addressing all identified needs, meetings began last week between health services, hospitals and community organizations to begin planning improvements. Hendrickson said the progress of these projects will all be documented here.

She hopes that making information like the assessment publicly available will encourage people to think about their communities in a public health context.

“It’s one thing to do this work and put it nicely in a binder. on a shelf, and nobody does anything, but that’s not the intent of the partnership,” Hendrickson said. “The ideal of partnerships is to be truly held accountable, to ensure that we collaborate and coordinate to find solutions for our community.”

The next Community Health Needs Assessment report is due in 2025. You can find the full report, as well as similar projects for surrounding areas here.

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