More than half the restaurants in Summit County are fast-food businesses, compared to just 25 percent nationwide.
Area residents have a higher rate of major depression than the national average — 7,850 per 100,000 compared to 7,244 per 100,000.
And many more Summit County residents covered by Medicare end up in the hospital for preventable reasons than the national average.
Those were some of the findings in the latest Community Health Needs Assessment, a comprehensive study released recently by Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron General Medical Center and Summa Health System.
The hospitals contracted with the Kent State University College of Public Health to review health needs in Summit County and create the report.
Akron Children’s Hospital had data from Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit and Wayne counties in its report. Summa also included Medina and Portage counties in addition to Summit in its assessment.
The findings, though not necessarily surprising, reinforce the need for the hospitals to work together to help residents address identified needs, said Roxia Boykin, vice president of community benefit and diversity for the Summa Foundation.
“Even though there is competition relative to services, the fact that we continue to work together on this particular initiative is critical,” she said.
Hospitals are required by the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to evaluate the health needs of the communities they serve every three years to keep their tax-exempt status. The new report marks the second time Akron’s hospitals have worked together to compile a Community Health Needs Assessment.
The hospitals are paying Kent State $175,000 for a three-year contract that includes assistance developing an implementation strategy and plan to address the identified needs — a new requirement under the Affordable Care Act.
Many health issues
Areas being addressed in the Akron area include everything from chronic illnesses and lifestyle factors to mental health and substance abuse.
In some cases, the hospitals are developing their own plans to address the needs or enhancing existing programs; in others, they’re working together to develop community initiatives.
“Being responsive to the community needs is what it’s all about,” said Heather Wuensch, director of community benefit, advocacy and outreach for Akron Children’s Hospital. “That’s been all of our focus from the beginning.”
Children’s, for example, is developing a plan to help primary-care doctors better identify young patients with asthma.
Roughly 1,788 per 100,000 children in Summit County go to an emergency room for asthma symptoms, according to the report.
“Ultimately, it would be great if we could reduce ER visits for asthma,” Wuensch said.
Summa has been trying to prevent hospital stays when possible with a geriatric emergency department at Akron City Hospital that’s devoted exclusively to the needs of older patients, Boykin said.
Likewise, Akron General has been trying to address the need for more mental-health services in the community by working more closely with Portage Path Behavioral Health, said Sue Hobson, the health system’s director of community health and community relations. The two organizations formed a partnership last year for joint recruitment and employment of psychiatrists and other behavioral health experts.
The Kent State researchers studied more than 100 health indicators and compared Summit County results to state, national and similar counties to find areas where the region performed better or worse.
The researchers used state and national data sources to complete the report.
Interviews with community leaders and focus groups with more than 100 residents also were used to help determine the biggest health needs in the region.
Community leaders listed mental health, uninsured residents’ lack of access to health care, misuse of alcohol and drugs, dental health and obesity among youths as top concerns.
Residents were most concerned with mental-health issues, along with obesity, diabetes, drugs and alcohol, lung disease, elder-care support and the cost of health care.
“It is a reminder that mental health is still an issue that isn’t always thought about in community health-needs assessments,” said lead researcher Willy H. Oglesby, a Kent State assistant professor of health policy and management. “They tend to think of physical health, but there are a lot of mental health needs.”
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.