Health & Wellness

Springfield Board of Health Seeks More Local Focus in Community Health Needs Assessment

Board of Health Credits: Chip Dickson

SPRINGFIELD, NJ—A group of non-profit health organizations known as the North Jersey Health Collaborative has presented a 50-page “Community Health Needs Assessment” for Union County for 2016. The assessment was prepared for the group by the Center for Population Health Sciences at Atlantic Health System—the parent organization of Overlook Medical Center in Summit.

The assessment delves into areas such as access to care, behavioral health, "built" environment, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic and communicable diseases, economic and environmental health and a host of other topics. Discussions on these areas then are followed up by statistics on a number of health subjects and their effects on various populations.

However, according to township board of health members, the statistics neither are attributed to specific sources nor are they broken down into community-related statistics so individual municipalities, like Springfield, can take action on corrective measures needed within their borders.

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Springfield Health Officer Michael Fitzpatrick replied that, while surveys done several years ago were completed by individual communities, the sponsoring non-profit organizations found that this approach did not meet their global need to find overall solutions for populations they serve.

Some tie-in to local statistics would help Springfield decide what it can do to address the needs of specific communities within its borders, Springfield Board of Health Vice President Sandy Harris said.

For example, she noted, there can be some reaching out to township “faith-based communities” to find out what problems they are encountering and how they can be assisted in their efforts.

The health officer replied that statistics from five or six faith-based organizations might be useful and, if those conglomerate statistics were not available perhaps leaders of congregations could be contacted for their input.

Board member Debra Sobel suggested a possible “summit” of leaders of various faiths to help hone in on problems and possible target areas and solutions.

Also, board member Patti Lynn said those involved in local community healthcare would like to find out why people, especially those most in need, like the uninsured, are not attending community health clinics.

She added that, which school nurses can provide information to school children and their parents, she was not sure other adults, especially the elderly living alone, were getting the message sufficiently.

Board president Leonard Bielory added that the highest priority in his mind was addressing the drug abuse problem, especially among the young adult population.

He said although many youth felt they were “invincible,” Springfield does see a number of youth deaths from drug overdoses.

Both Bielory and Harris said a large medical organization such as Atlantic Health Systems keeps records on various topics listed under zip codes and other identifying values that can be used in narrowing down assessments by community to better determine which populations need help and the type of help they need.

On another matter, Fitzpatrick reported a recent state audit of the Madison Health Department, which provides contracted health services to Springfield and a number of other communities, found that local board of health members could use more education in the functioning of health departments and health department staff members could use more workforce development.

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