Midstate health assessment reveals several issues

Written by Craig Layne, Morning Edition Host/Reporter | Sep 10, 2012 12:34 PM

health-insurance.jpg(Undated) -- Three organizations are cooperating on a study looking at issues driving health care in the midstate.  Holy Spirit Health System, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth System have collaborated on the community health needs assessment. The survey includes interviews and data analysis from people and groups in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lebanon, Perry and northern York counties.

Holy Spirit Senior Vice President and Chief Strategic Officer Rick LaVanture says one of the key findings is the need for more primary care -- like family practices, dentists and mental health providers.  "They're looking to shift health care to less expensive care at the earlier, primary and outpatient level, rather than the more expensive care found at hospitals," he says.

Penn State Hershey spokesman Sean Young says it also reveals a need for more preventative care -- since heart disease and cancer are among the leading causes of death in central Pennsylvania.  "A routine of regular physical activity, combined with better diet and nutrition could reduce many of the underlying risks of disease and illness that were identified in the needs assessment," Young says.

Other key data show Harrisburg has one of the highest rates of uninsured individuals in the state at 27 percent, while Perry County comes in 66th out of 67 counties in terms of education.

Young says more health education could also help cut down on disease. "Patients have to have a greater hand in their individual health care, both in terms of prevention and wellness and in terms of understanding what their risk factors are," he says.

PinnacleHealth Vice President of Mission Effectiveness and Chief Diversity Officer Barbara Terry says the assessment also highlights issues like childhood obesity - an area where her health system is already at work to counter the problem.  "We have programs providing nutrition education in the (Harrisburg) schools and really bridging the gap so children understand how to make healthy choices," she says.

The assessment found more than 17 percent of elementary school children in Lebanon and Perry counties are obese.  It also revealed about 650 people are homeless every day in Dauphin County.

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