A new health assessment for Buncombe County shows an increase in the number of infant deaths, deaths from complications of diabetes and incidences of opiate overdoses.
The 2015 Community Health Assessment Report, released last week, also details how to address these and other health problems in the county. The assessment is performed in each county every three years, and hospitals, public health agencies and more than 30 other community partners work to address areas of concern.
For example, sudden infant death syndrome is largely responsible for the uptick in infant mortality, says Jan Shepard, director of the Division of Public Health at the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services.
“Our numbers are small, but we have seen an increase, particularly in 2013,” Shepard said. DHHS is working on educating parents and other caregivers about safe sleeping practices such as placing infants on their backs or sides to sleep and not having anything that could obstruct breathing, such as stuffed animals and crib bumpers, near the child.
With each assessment, community partners target areas that need work and then develop plans to address those problems.
This year, the county will focus on several groups of people:
· The aging population.
· People impacted by health disparities.
· People impacted by adverse childhood experiences, including domestic violence and child abuse and neglect.
· Subgroups of the homeless population, specifically veterans and people impacted by mental illness and domestic violence.
This report also will generate action on infant mortality, obesity, intimate partner violence and substance abuse.
“We have seen in the past improvement in many areas,” Shepard said. “We look at numbers every year and we assess what we’re doing; it’s an ongoing process.”
As in the past, the report shows disparities in health and access to health care, with people of color lagging behind and more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses, food insecurity and obesity. Among the solutions proposed are finding ways to increase access to health care, getting healthy foods into low-income neighborhoods and encouraging safe and active transportation such as walking and bicycling.
The report did find some positive aspects to Buncombe County:
· A strong, vibrant community and “can do” attitude.
· The mountains and natural environment and the “emerging gem” of greenways are tremendous assets to the community.
· The caring, creative, friendly, helpful and optimistic people.
“We see improvement in many ways in each cycle,” Shepard says. “That’s the good news.”
To read the full report, visit www.buncombecounty.org/common/health/CHA/2016-community-health-assessment.pdf.