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Published: Thursday, 1/12/2006

Surveys to gauge health in Wood County


BOWLING GREEN - As Wood County Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper makes his case for opening a dental clinic for county residents without private insurance, he admits the numbers he has to work with are not the most reliable.

A health assessment done in 2002 indicated a lack of dental health care for low-income residents and Medicaid recipients, he said, but the health department will find out later this year just how severe the problem is.

In collaboration with health-related agencies ranging from the Wood County Hospital to the Wood County Committee on Aging, the health department plans to have a new community health assessment done this year that will give it a better picture of all of the county's health issues and needs for service.

"We need to do a new health assessment. We do not have a primary source of data," Mr. Cooper said.

The health department plans to work with the Toledo-based Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio to conduct the health survey, which will be randomly mailed to 800 adults in the county and completed in randomly selected classrooms by about 375 children in grades 6-12. It should be done by 2007.

Britney Ward, health improvement project specialist with the hospital council, said Wood County will join Fulton, Henry, Lucas, Sandusky, and Seneca counties in undertaking this kind of comprehensive health study. Ottawa County is having one done this year, she said.

Sandusky County Health Commissioner David Pollick, who helped develop the methodology with the hospital council in the late 1990s, said that not only does the surveying process give reliable results, but by involving agencies outside the health department, survey results are far more effective.

Hospitals, mental health agencies, and social service agencies help fund the assessment, which Sandusky County tries to do every four years.

"It's a good mix of folks, and it ensures it's going to be used," Mr. Pollick said. "If this stuff went on a shelf, I wouldn't do it."

Mr. Pollick is scheduled to speak at a Jan. 23 meeting where members of the soon-to-be-formed Wood County Health Partners group are scheduled to get the health assessment started and discuss funding for it.

Mr. Cooper said the invited agencies have been very supportive of the idea and have informally agreed to help pay the $28,000-to-$35,000 cost of the assessment.

The study would look at demographics and mortality data and gather input on everything from arthritis and asthma to tobacco use and weight control.

Catharine Harned, director of marketing and business development at Wood County Hospital, said the hospital has agreed to be part of the Health Partners group because it is part of its mission to serve the health-care needs of Wood County residents.

"The resulting data will be incorporated in the hospital's future planning initiatives," she said.

Mr. Pollick said the data is beneficial to health-care providers as well as private businesses concerned with health- care costs and economic development agencies trying to attract new companies to the area.

In Sandusky County, having the scientifically based data also has helped Mr. Pollick's agency attract more grant money for health programs.

"The ability to articulate need in a competitive grant environment is highly valuable," he said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan

at jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.

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