Pima County Government Logo
  • Increase font size
  • Decrease font size
  • Print
  • RSS
  • Health officials identify Pima County's most pressing health needs

    May 05, 2022 | Read More News
    Share this page

    The Pima County Health Department, in partnership with local leading health care providers, has identified the county's priority health issues in the recently published Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).bag of medicine drip at Banner University Hospital

    Health leaders pored through publicly available data from multiple resources spanning the years 2015-2021 and interviewed scores of residents in 2021 to identify the critical gaps in health care facing Pima County – as well as to identify what conditions exist that are preventing residents from attaining optimal health.

    The results for the time period include:

    • Cancer was the leading cause of death, overtaking diseases of the heart.
    • Diseases of the heart, accidents, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and cerebrovascular diseases were the second, third, fourth and fifth leading causes of death.
    • Pima County is ranked sixth out of the 15 Arizona counties in overall health.

    The CHNA was previously published in 2018. Nonprofit hospitals, federally qualified community health centers, two tribal nations, and the Pima County Health Department jointly conducted an inventory of the needs and priorities of this community.

    The report highlights four top health priorities identified by the community of Pima County:

    • Behavioral and Mental health. This is a continuation of a need identified in the 2018 report. Behavioral and mental health were consistently cited as important issues, and the COVID-19 pandemic increased the severity of loneliness and isolation, decreased access to care, and worsened mental health.
    • Substance Use Disorder. The 2018 report similarly determined substance use disorder among the top health priorities. While the 2018 report showed alcohol and opium as the second and fourth leading causes of death in Pima County, the latest report finds that in 2020 there was a 32 percent increase in overdose deaths from 2019, with fentanyl as the most common drug involved in overdoses.
    • Access to Care (including how services are provided and their overall availability). While the percentage of uninsured in Pima County has decreased since 2008, more than one in 10 residents do not have health insurance. Most people without insurance are adults 19-55 years old, with low-income households being more likely to be uninsured.
    • Social Determinants of Health, particularly poverty, transportation, and the built environment. This is the first time these social factors that correlate with poor health outcomes have been identified as a top health priority. Most notably, 11.2 percent of households received SNAP benefits (food stamps), with 52 percent of those households including children.

    According to Pima County community members, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed far-reaching implications on all aspects of health and wellness. The immediate social and economic implications -- including increased isolation, job loss, and a disruption of health and social services -- have merged into chronic anxiety, burnout, stress, and a sharp increase in total deaths as the pandemic continues.

    Since initiating the CHNA in 2011, Pima County has been tracking the state of obesity in Pima County. Adult obesity rates in Pima County have plateaued at 25 percent from 2014 to 2018. This rate is less than Arizona and the United States’ obesity rates. It is encouraging to see positive trends in the data and see that aligning priorities and focusing on health investments make a difference.

    "The CHNA is an essential public health tool that allows health systems to align their own programming with the needs of the community,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Pima County Administrator.

    “Gathering community input is the most important step to understand how health is impacted not only by our health care system, but by external factors such as poverty, transportation to access healthcare, as well as safe and affordable housing."

    Health leaders participating in the CHNA shared their perspectives about the report:

    Banner University Medical Center, Tucson and South, Sarah Frost, CEO
    “Banner – University Medicine is a committed partner in the effort to build a healthier future for those in Pima County. The Community Health Needs Assessment survey provides us and other health care leaders with the focus needed to formulate a plan to address urgent health issues in our community. Together, we can use our unique strengths as committed community health care leaders to make a positive impact addressing these needs.”

    Tucson Medical Center, Julia Strange, Vice President, Community Benefit
    "Tucson Medical Center is pleased to have once again worked with our local Health Department and many of our fellow health care organization to complete a current community health needs assessment. This unique collaboration gives everyone a broader perspective of the health of our community. By understanding the health priorities of our community, we will be able to focus our resources and have a greater impact on the health of our community."

    Tucson Indian Center, Jacob Bernal, Executive Director
    “The Community Health Needs Assessment Report represents a successful collaborative effort by many local health providers. The report identified key health conditions and findings to provide steering and direction for our community public health service model. The Tucson Indian Center stands ready, willing and able to work with the community health providers to elevate the health status of our community. We look forward to implementing meaningful and effective health solutions aligned with the established priorities to make our community stronger.”

    Marana Health Care, Clinton Kuntz, CEO
    “The CHNA represents a collaborative approach to identify, assess, and prioritize the most important health issues affecting Pima County. The CHNA looks at health status, barriers to care, and other social determinants of health that can have an impact on individuals, families, and the community as a whole. Participating in this collaboration for the CHNA has been tremendously helpful in identifying healthcare
    gaps that exist in our community. We believe partnering with the local health department and other healthcare organizations in Pima County to conduct this assessment will allow us to more effectively address the healthcare needs in our community.”

    El Rio Health, Nancy Johnson, CEO
    "The top three health priorities are no surprise to El Rio Health. Our behavioral health and substance abuse services continue to grow rapidly. In addition, our chronic disease management programs around diabetes, asthma, and obesity for adults and children are heavily utilized by our patients and their families. Lastly, El Rio Health continues to have a "stand-by" list of community residents seeking a Health Home offering not only primary care, but dental and behavioral health services. This timely assessment supports our strategic planning for the coming years to improve the health of our community.".

    Pima County Health Department, Dr. Theresa Cullen, Director
    “Pima County Health Department is committed to guiding Pima County to become one of the healthiest counties in the U.S. within the next 10 years. The CHNA is an important document that helps the county reach this goal by directing the Health Department and our valuable community partners to focus efforts and resources on the health areas in the most need of improvement. We are so excited to begin the next steps of working with the community to form and implement action plans that will move our county closer to being one of the healthiest in the country.”

    United Community Health Center CEO, Rodolfo Jimenez, DO
    "United Community Health Center serves southern Pima County for primary care needs, where access to services can be much more limited than Tucson provides. UCHC feels that community partnership in every area is the only way to ever be able to meet the needs of all the residents of Pima County. Partnering to deliver services and then partnering to assess the value and areas for improvement regarding those services, just makes sense. We are all so much stronger together and we expand our reach exponentially through partnerships just like this. UCHC is proud to continue to serve with such a talented and dedicated healthcare community."

    Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, Jennifer Gutowski, Director/CEO
    “Veterans play an integral role in Pima County, and we are partnering with Pima County and our community health care partners to identify the most critical health care gaps that not only affect all of Pima county but our Veterans as well. Suicide prevention is the VA’s top clinical priority, and this means we must collaborate with our community in reducing Veteran suicide. All of us have a role in preventing Veteran suicide. This collaboration will help us identify what priorities we need to focus on in preventing Veterans suicide within Pima County. At the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, we have a “No Wrong Door” policy for Veterans seeking mental health care when they present at any of our health care facilities across southern Arizona. We are committed to meeting the health care needs of all our Veterans, and this partnership will allow us to understand what is most important to the Veterans and families we serve.”

    Carondelet Health Network, Monica C. Vargas-Mahar, CEO
    “Carondelet Health Network is proud to contribute in developing strategies to address the community’s health needs and leading issues. As the only Catholic hospital system in Pima County, our steadfast commitment to the area has been prevalent for more than 135 years and will continue to build upon that foundation to better serve the community. Examining the health status indicators for Pima County will help our providers solve the county’s key health problems, and the Community Health Needs Assessment plays an integral part in having our health leaders collaborate.”