Meadville undergoes health assessment survey

Angela Mauroni, Science Editor

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Eight students invested in Meadville’s current state of health are currently collaborating to develop a health needs assessment survey. This survey is called a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and was first conducted in the Meadville community in the early 1980s. The last was conducted in 2011.

The students found the 2011 survey unreliable due to the length and upper reading levels it was written in.

The group is working to distance themselves from the issue of fluoride in Meadville’s water that became a large focus of the community’s health last year. Instead, they are trying to figure out exactly what is the biggest reason for hospitalization in the community so they can figure out the best way to provide treatment.

Rebecca Dawson, professor of biology, is coordinating with the group to construct an accurate survey to distribute.

“We’re thinking about data in the public health sense,” Dawson explained. “The number one reason for visits to the [emergency room] currently is pain.”

This result appeared consistent in all age groups, from pediatric to geriatric.

Various kinds of pain fall under this category, including mouth pains, stomach pains, chest pains and so on, although Dawson did note that mental illness was a rising result for emergency room admittance cause.

The group gathered and analyzed the results on multiple occasions to try and make more specific the reasons for admittance.

“We need a more in-depth perspective on the health of the community,” said one of the students working on the project, Erica Salizonni, ’16. “The assessment will require the community members to answer further questions based on the top health issues…in the community.”

The top issues will be determined based on what the assessment team finds in their analysis.

“We will be able to use the information to further determine what health issues the community needs most help with,” Salizonni added.

Another participating student, Elizabeth Schafer, ’17, evaluated the needs assessment  survey to be beneficial for the community in the health care opportunities it can bring attention to.

“It will allow for different health concerns to be discovered so intervention programs can be developed to improve the overall health in the community,” she said.

Another goal of the project is to find noticeable health disparities, access to care, quality of care and health behaviors.

The assessment is not limited to community residents. The project is meant to assess the Allegheny College community as well.

The interest in the project began in Dawson’s 2013 junior seminar class full of global health studies and biology students. They were tasked with creating methods of developing an accurate survey assessing the Meadville population being served by the Medical Center. Recommendations on the most effective development of the survey were later presented to the Medical Center.

Some of the students became more invested in the project and wanted to work further on it. Those, along with students from outside the class that later joined, sent in a proposal for funding to conduct a mail survey, including a deadline. They were approved in spring of 2014.

The students plan to mail the survey to 1500 people to gather information on risk factors and individual health. They anticipate the survey to be under 500 words and no higher than a grade seven reading level, and the minimum amount of response participants is set at 400.

Currently involved in the research and survey development as well as Salizonni are Erica Bryson, ’15, Austin Cosgrove, ’15, Sierra Hall, ’16, Mary Nagel, ’15, Elizabeth Schafer, ’17, Alejandro Weil, ’15, and Matt Zaboroski, ’17.

Since the needs assessment must be conducted every three years, students will be able to participate in future research and analyzation of information.

The quantitative data comparing the health needs of the community and the state became available this September, and in Sept. 2015 the results of their survey will be collected, evaluated and distributed. By Dec. 2015, they plan to have the final report of the needs assessment to distribute.

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