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2018 Rowan Needs Assessment to kick off in March

By Jessica Coates
jessica.coates@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Whenever Healthy Rowan Executive Director Alyssa Smith does presentations, people ask why Rowan County is ranked 73 in county health rankings.

“What is it about Rowan County that makes it different from other counties around us that are healthier?” Smith asked. “With this data, we’ll get to the roots of why.”

The “data” she referred tp will come from the 2018 Rowan Health and Human Services Need Assessment, which will take place over the course of nine months starting in March.

Matt Simon, who is in charge of the 2018 assessment on behalf of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, said the assessment will involve a number of survey methods that will get to the heart of what Rowan County residents think is and isn’t working.

“We’ll ask about quality of life, what do they like about their community, what things keep them in the area,” Simon said. “We’ll also ask what they dislike, what are their concerns and what factors affect those concerns.”

Simon said that in addition to those broader questions, survey participants will be asked about their medical history, diet and exercise regimen.

Simon said the data will likely be collected in a number of ways, including door-to-door visits and focus groups.

“The purpose of the survey is to highlight some of the challenges, some of the strengths and work toward what assets they have that can help,” Simon said.

Simon said all the data collected from what he expects will be 200 to 210 survey participants will be anonymous and will be presented as “Rowan County survey participants’” answers.

“We want to hear from community members,” Simon said. “These agencies that serve them are very much invested in this process and want to make sure everyone knows this is … not a waste of their time.”

Rowan County United Way is the “convener” of the survey, according to United Way volunteer Denise Hallett. She said the organization is “uniquely designed” to bring together community partners.

“It’s something that’s a natural fit for United Way to do because we’ve been solving problems in our community for years,” Hallett said. “United Way is all about health and human services.”

Hallett said the needs assessment committee, which will include community partners and leaders, will help guide the questions that Simon’s team will ask on the survey.

“We understand the importance of knowing what the needs are in the community because … United Way tries to be a good steward with its dollars,” Hallett said. “You can throw money at a lot of great organizations, but if we can address those (needs) it will make a positive difference in the community.”

Other community agencies involved with the needs assessment include Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, Rowan County Health Department, and Salisbury Community Foundation.

Jessica Ijames, community engagement manager for Novant Health Rowan, said Novant and the Health Department are required to do a community health assessment every three years.

Ijames said that because United Way does a needs assessment only every five or six years, Novant and the county sometimes have to do the assessment themselves.

But Ijames said Novant is “thankful for community partners.”

“This is a huge undertaking, a huge number of requirements,” Ijames said. “It’s better when we have a united front and can work together rather than … working in silos.”

Simon said more information about when the door-to-door visits will be made will be released closer to March.

“We want to make sure community members are aware and that they can participate,” Simon said.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

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