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Public input sought for Rowan Community Health Needs Assessment

SALISBURY — From now through November, the Rowan County Health Department will be collecting input for its 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment.

Conducted every three years, the assessment is a part of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center’s and Rowan County Public Health’s accreditation process. The assessment gives local health leaders a clear image of the county’s health needs and how limited resources can be allocated to address them.

“This is a chance for their voice to be heard and if they’re passionate about something that’s going on in this community, this is a great way to share that information,” Health Director Alyssa Harris said. “We want to hear from everybody.”

In addition to a few focus groups and a key informant survey, the Health Department and Novant will primarily be gathering data using an online survey available at surveymonkey.com/r/RoCoCommunitySurvey.

The last time the survey was conducted was in 2018 when Rowan United Way was also a participant. At the time, Harris was serving as the executive director of Healthy Rowan and part of data collection efforts. That survey was conducted by representatives visiting randomly selected homes in neighborhoods throughout the county.

The results of that survey indicated several priorities for the Health Department to address, including substance abuse, mental health and healthy lifestyle behaviors. The Health Department, Harris said, has used that information when budgeting, allocating resources and creating programs.

The survey currently being conducted is not only different due to the way data is being collected, but it will also be influenced by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know things are going to be different when we ask these questions because of the circumstances that people are experiencing right now,” Harris said. “We know the pandemic is on everyone’s mind and it has changed people’s circumstances, whether that’s through eviction or loss of job or just in general not experiencing the best level of health because either their mental or physical health has been affected.”

Harris expects the survey to reflect that Rowan Countians have been visiting the doctor less. That could be a major problem, Harris said, because “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

To ensure the data collected is an accurate portrayal of the county’s needs, the Health Department is seeking to gather input from 1-2% of the population, which is about 2,000 people. There’s no limit to the number of Rowan Countians who can complete the survey.

“The more the merrier,” Harris said. “We’d be so happy if we see more people taking it than our goal. That’d be amazing.”

A higher participation rate also will lead to better data and a more comprehensive view of the county’s most pressing health-related problems, Harris said.

To capture a cross-section of the county representative of people from different demographic and socioeconomic groups, the Health Department is partnering with providers such as the Community Care Clinic and organizations such as Meals on Wheels Rowan.

The survey is strictly confidential and the answers submitted by participants will remain anonymous. 

“We want people to feel comfortable and we want them to give the most accurate answer for their circumstance,” Harris said. “We can not solve a problem as a community if we don’t know if the problem exists. The things asked in the survey may be sensitive topics for people, talking about food insecurity or economic hardship, especially if it relates to COVID. We wanted to create an environment where people feel safe. There’s no name, there is no email attached to the survey when you submit it.”

To incentivize community members to participate in the survey, the Health Department is entering everyone who completes it into a drawing to win a RoCo Gift Basket.

Once the Community Health Needs Assessment concludes on Nov. 30, the data will be submitted to the University of North Carolina School of Public Health for analysis. The results of the assessment will likely be available in the spring or early summer and be published publicly as a report that the Health Department will make widely available at YMCAs and public libraries across the county.

More information about the Community Health Needs Assessment can be found online at rowancountync.gov/256/Health-Department.

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