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  • Health officials identify Pima County’s most pressing health needs

    Mar 19, 2019 | Read More News
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    Stock photo illustrationHeart disease surpassed cancer as the leading cause of death in Pima County over the past three years. Suicide is now the tenth leading cause of death Countywide. Pima County adults are less likely to be obese than other Arizonans, but more likely to have diabetes.

    Those facts stand out among many included in the latest Pima County Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), a comprehensive, collaborative review put out every three years by Pima County’s nonprofit hospitals with help from the County Health Department and other organizations. The report seeks to identify critical gaps in the local health care system and what conditions exist that prevent residents from attaining optimal health as well as study the needs of the community to align priorities and help focus health investments.

    “More and more, we recognize that the responsibility for health and well-being extends beyond the walls of hospitals and doctors’ offices. There is a shared responsibility for caring for ourselves and our most vulnerable community members,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, chief medical officer and assistant Pima County administrator. “This was an important first step in that conversation about how health is impacted by a myriad of external factors that confront low-income families in our community.”

    The CHNA concludes Pima County has three top health challenges:
    • Behavioral health, including mental illness and substance use. This is a continuation of a need identified in the 2015 CHNA around anxiety and depression, as well as substance abuse. The latest report determined alcohol is the second-leading cause of morbidity in Pima County, with opium use ranking fourth.
    • Obesity and related chronic diseases, such as diabetes and childhood obesity. The 2015 review similarly determined that diabetes was among the top health priorities.
    • Access to services, including how services are provided and their overall availability. While Pima County overall has more primary care providers per population in the state, many pockets exist throughout the community with less access to care.
    For the first time, the health system also worked to understand not just which diseases to tackle, but also which social factors most closely correlate with poor health outcomes. The CHNA incorporated published data as well as community input collected through focus groups and public forums to identified three social factors that are most closely related to leading causes of death and disease – poverty, education and health insurance. Findings that support those correlations include:
    • On average, more people in Pima County finish high school and college than the state, although there are significant geographic disparities. The report notes education is one of the strongest predictive indicators of health status.
    • Nearly 15 percent of Pima County residents lack insurance coverage, which often leads to delayed care and worse health outcomes.
    • Nearly a quarter of Pima County residents earn less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level, with ethnic and geographic disparities. Poverty can be a major barrier to accessing health care, eating nutritious food and securing housing and can have devastating effects on stress levels.
    • Ten of Arizona’s 15 counties did better than Pima County in physical environment factors, including air pollution, water violations, severe housing problems and long commutes.
    • Rural populations and low-income areas struggle more with access to care, access to health services and healthy food.
    Read the report and find out more about the solutions identified on the Health Department's webpage.