Survey reveals health priorities for community

Fighting substance abuse and the lack of access to mental health services are among the top health needs for Lycoming County in recent research conducted by a Susquehanna Health survey.

Williamsport Rotary Club members got a brief glimpse of the Community Health Needs Assessment as provided by UPMC Susquehanna spokeswoman Corinne McLaughlin on Monday.

The survey will be used to form strategies toward improving some of the concerns found in the research, she said.

The information was gathered through interviews, statistics and figures involving patient use rates throughout Lycoming County.

A similar survey was done for Tioga County.

Other top health priorities or concerns found in the survey for Lycoming County were: heart disease, financial barriers, cancer, lack of preventative care, lack of health care knowledge or education, obesity and shortage of primary care physicians.

Substance abuse, in particular the opiate problem, was among the single biggest concerns cited in the survey.

The survey cited possible strategies for battling the problem such as continued support of Project Bald Eagle, a community awareness and drug education group, as well as community level engagement in the fight against opiate abuse and better pain management resources.

To address obesity, suggestions and strategies included discussion between patients and primary physicians about overall wellness and healthy lifestyles, healthy eating on fixed budgets, more health and wellness prevention classes including in schools, continued wellness initiatives through insurance plans and at work, and affordable mental health and nutrition counseling.

Participants in the survey were queried about the most critical health and quality of life issues in the county and what needs to be done to address them.

A review of the responses as well as discussions with groups revealed the most common critical health and quality of life issues as: drug addiction, specifically opiates; obesity/lifestyle choices; mental health issues; affordable health care due to insurance; and knowledge of community resources and programs.

The Internal Revenue Code Section 501(r) requires health care organizations to assess the health needs of their communities and adopt strategies to identify needs every three years.