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Shawnee Co. health needs assessment finds mental health, obesity as top priorities

Shawnee County releases its latest Community Health Needs Assessment.
Shawnee County releases its latest Community Health Needs Assessment.(Sara O’Keeffe, University of Kansas Center for Public Partnership and Research)
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 11:13 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Shawnee County reached a more diverse group of people in a survey designed to address the community’s health needs.

The health department, along with community stakeholders, conduct a health needs assessment every three years.

It looks at current and future needs, identifies any social, economic, or environmental challenges, and helps in the allocation of resources.

The latest assessment revealed four major areas of work in Shawnee County: mental health, healthy eating and obesity, substance abuse, and equitable access.

During the process, the community had the opportunity to provide feedback through a survey, roundtable discussions, and a virtual town hall conversation. The county received 2,536 responses to the survey, 148 total attendees at the roundtables, and 95 people attended the virtual town hall from 45 different organizations.

Craig Barnes with the Shawnee County Health Department said the most telling was the survey. He said it showed an increase in participation across all ages and in minority groups.

“What we saw this year was an increase up to about a 6.2% return rate for the African American population, but we know that makes up about 8.5% of the population, so we know we still have some work to do there,” Barnes continued saying, “We also saw a 4.9% in the Hispanic/Latino population, but they do still make up 12.2% of our population, so we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure their voices are being heard.”

The assessment also analyzed the impacts of COVID-19 and how it played a role in food insecurity and access to quality health care in Shawnee County.

“I think that there is still a lot of things that we will still find out from COVID-19 as we look at the data, but one thing that we definitely identified was there were a lot of strong partnerships and collaborations that were started,” Barnes said. “It gave us an opportunity to bring those who were under-represented to the table and look outside the box at creative opportunities to address the pressing issues.”

You can read the full Shawnee County Community Health Needs Assessment on the health department’s website.

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