Now we know the community health issues of Douglas County, Kansas

Now we know the community health issues of Douglas County, Kansas

Douglas County’s recent comprehensive community health assessment included surveying, focus groups, interviews, a public health system assessment and a small area analysis using geo-mapping to pinpoint hotspots of emergency room use. Behind it all, including the final report, were Vicki Collie-Akers and Christina Holt of the Work Group for Community Health and Development, a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre.

Key stakeholders in the assessment included the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, Community Health Improvement Partnership, Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Heartland Community Health Center, the Douglas County Community Foundation and the United Way of Douglas County.

What’s driving the assessment and the upcoming community health improvement plan is the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department’s application for accreditation to the Public Health Accreditation Board, said Holt. “But more, it is the stakeholders’ desire to impact public health issues collaboratively.”

Key stakeholders pared down the findings of the assessment to five areas of concern slated for improvement in the next five years: lack of access to affordable healthy foods, insufficient access to health care, poverty or too few job opportunities, lack of access to mental health services and lack of physical activity.

Collie-Akers and Holt saw it as a step forward that poverty was included in the final five areas for improvement.

“Poverty is a social determinant of health,” said Holt. “As a WHO Centre, we’ve studied how social determinants of health are correlated with health outcomes and work to build local capacity for taking action.”

“We often refer to a question posed by WHO,” said Holt, “why treat people’s illnesses, without changing what made them sick in the first place?”

Report available at: