College Station The Center for Community Health Development (CCHD) at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health released the findings of the 2013 Regional Health Care Partnership (RHP) 17 Regional Health Assessment at a health summit held on September 12th at the College Station Hilton. The summit featured keynote speaker Amy Elizondo, Vice President of Program Services with the National Rural Health Association.
The assessment, conducted across a nine-county region of Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Leon, Madison, Montgomery, Robertson, Walker, and Washington Counties, analyzed data from a household survey, community discussion groups, and existing data from local, state, and national sources to gain a clear understanding of the region’s current health status and factors that influence residents’ health. Over 5,230 residents responded to the survey and more than 1,000 individuals from across the region participated in 81 discussion groups held in all nine counties. The assessment identified eight key findings for the region:
*Transportation is a significant barrier to access to care for residents and to economic growth for communities.
*Communities throughout the region are recognizing rapid population growth without the infrastructure and capacity necessary to accommodate it.
*The state of the economy is making it difficult for families to maintain financial stability.
*Although the obesity rate in the region appears to be leveling off, the existing rate of obesity is cause for concern, as well as the prevalence of chronic diseases related to obesity.
*Mental health needs continue to exceed the resources and services currently available, and many communities lack local mental health services altogether. Often accompanying mental health issues, alcohol and substance abuse are significant concerns that many residents feel are unacknowledged and unaddressed.
*Residents are concerned about the risky behaviors of young people in their communities.
*As the population grows, the proportion of older adults is increasing, and the current resources and services available for the older adult population and their caregivers are insufficient.
*The rural communities, the low-income, and those of a minority population continue to face substantial disparities in access to resources and services, as well as in health outcomes.
Following the release of the findings, Amy Elizondo spoke to the summit attendees about the unique challenges that rural communities face in promoting and maintaining good health, as well as innovative solutions being developed in rural communities across the country.
Elizondo, a 2002 graduate of the Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health, praised the Brazos Valley for its efforts in meeting the needs of local residents and finding strategies to overcome great barriers to access to care.
“Expanding access to care by creating rural health resource centers in the Brazos Valley put control in the hands of communities and enabled service providers to extend services with less overhead. These are the kinds of innovative, collaborative ideas other communities can learn from,” Elizondo said.
The 2013 health assessment marks the fourth assessment of the seven-county Brazos Valley region conducted by CCHD. However, this assessment’s geographic scope was expanded to include both Walker and Montgomery Counties, which along with the seven Brazos Valley counties, comprise the recently formed Regional Healthcare Partnership 17.
Assessment results have been compiled in a nine-county regional report, a Brazos Valley regional report, and nine individual county-level reports. Reports will be available on the CCHD website, www.cchd.us.