11/3/2021 – Expanding transportation options, removing the stigma associated with mental health and improving broadband internet access throughout Knox County are among the goals of the latest /Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). The new plan also outlines the need for community healthcare workers and publicizing community resources.
The CHIP is based on priority areas determined from data collected during the Community Health Assessment (CHA), a countywide survey conducted every three years. Most recently, the CHA was conducted in 2020 by the Knox Health Planning Partnership (KHPP). KHPP is a non-profit coalition led by Knox Public Health with members from multiple sectors in the county, from health and education to business and government, plus community volunteers. KHPP is also responsible for carrying out the work outlined in the various strategic goals and action steps of the CHIP.
“The CHA provides the foundation for improving our community, and the CHIP puts improvement goals into focus,” said Carmen Barbuto of Knox Public Health. “We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated coalition here in Knox County that understands the importance of documents like the CHA and CHIP to improve the overall health and quality of life for our residents.”
The three priority areas in the 2021 CHIP selected by KHPP are: Access to Care, Mental Health & Substance Abuse, and Health & Resource Literacy.
Data from the CHA identified “Access to Care” as a clear concern for residents, which is supported by CHA survey results and other secondary sources. County residents have limited access to public transportation and private transportation services. Knox County also has a need for more medical providers in the area, with a physician ratio of 1 to every 960 residents, as compared to a ratio of 1 to 172, respectively for the state of Ohio. Limited access to local medical care leads to negative health outcomes, resulting in residents who are not able to properly and efficiently address both physical and behavioral health concerns before they turn into more severe or chronic conditions. Goals in this area include: a transportation assessment to determine operational hour increases and an effort to establish additional private services (Lyft, Uber, etc.) to the county. To make these efforts even more impactful, KHPP is looking to bring Community Health Workers to the county through a Community Health Access Program designed to help connect residents to needed care services, resources, and information.
Issues surrounding mental health and substance abuse are not new to Knox County. According to the data, 37 percent of residents personally know someone struggling with addiction, 21 percent have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder, and on average our residents suffer through nine poor mental health days per month. For the focus area of mental health and /substance use, KHPP’s goals are aimed at increasing evidenced based mental health education, reducing stigma around seeking mental and behavioral health services, and reducing youth substance use in the county. There is also a continued focus on education regarding Adverse Childhood Experiences, which play a large role in negative health outcomes as an adult. In Knox County, 47 percent of residents experienced at least one ACE and 11 percent had four or more, putting them at increased risk for a multitude of chronic health conditions.
Through community interviews conducted virtually in 2021, KHPP learned many residents are not aware of the many resources available in the county. Another aspect of this issue was residents were not informed about these resources or how to access them. The focus of the “Health and Resource Literacy” goal is aimed to increase knowledge about the County’s resources and how to navigate them. This area also focuses on youth education as Knox County has higher rates of chronic diseases among children compared to the state average. The CHA also revealed 13 percent of county residents do not have or severely lack access to the internet. Having internet access is vital for residents seeking health information and resources. Access to information empowers individuals to take control of their health, and to advocate for their health and needed resources. KHPP has and will continue to advocate for infrastructure improvements, connecting all residents with access to broadband.
Copies of both the CHA and CHIP will be available on the Knox Public Health website (under the Administration tab). If you have questions or are interested in becoming involved in the Knox Health Planning Partnership, please contact Carmen Barbuto at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (740) 392-2200 ext. 2239.