COVID-19 could be the third leading cause of death in Frederick County for 2020 and 2021, while chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer remain the leading causes of death, according to estimates from a new draft report. .
The virus has caused significant financial and psychological distress to many in the community and led some to postpone preventive and urgent health care visits. This could have far-reaching implications for future chronic health conditions in the county, according to a draft 2022 community health needs assessment, released Wednesday.
The assessment is conducted every three years by the Frederick County Health Care Coalition and sponsored by Frederick Health and the Frederick County Health Department.
The document brings together information from surveys, reports and focus groups to identify the leading causes of death and illness in Frederick County, the health issues that residents and local organizations find of most concern and the barriers that prevent community members from achieving well-being.
The 2022 draft assessment shows that residents’ health remains closely tied to where they live, who they identify with and their financial security.
The findings shared in this year’s document, which is over 100 pages long, are mostly consistent with those published in previous reports and assessments.
Data for most, but not all, health indicators is more positive in Frederick County than in Maryland as a whole. Issues such as affordable housing and transportation also remain top concerns for many Frederick County residents.
The county’s elderly population is also growing rapidly. Over the next two decades, according to the report, the population of adults 85 and older in Frederick County is expected to nearly quadruple, amplifying the need for in-home services and long-term care.
The number of elderly households considered “limited working, limited income, employed” – or “ALICE” – has also increased. Households considered ALICE have incomes above the federal poverty level, but struggle to afford basic necessities.
More Racial Minority Groups Are Seeking Translation Services
For most health indicators, where data are available and sufficient, disparities persist by gender, race and ethnicity.
Although 71% of the county’s population is white in 2020, the number of community members who are black, Latino, Asian or other racial minorities is increasing, which – according to the report – has created a need for increased availability. translation and interpretation services and “culturally appropriate” service providers.
The social determinants of health, which are factors such as education, neighborhood safety, air quality, housing conditions, poverty and employment, continue to play a major role in influencing the physical and mental well-being of Frederick County residents, according to the draft document.
Over the summer, the Health Care Coalition conducted a survey of Frederick County residents. Responses from over 4,000 people showed that factors such as racism, poverty, homophobia and certain household characteristics consistently contributed to respondents being considered “at risk” in the community, meaning that they were unable to pay for essentials or access health care and that they experienced insecurity in terms of food, shelter, transport and employment.
In total, the survey found that 25% of community residents struggled to afford basic necessities and 10% were food insecure in the past year, meaning they feared that their food would run out.
Additionally, 29% of community members said they had felt at some point that their gender, race, language, or similar characteristic affected the way they were treated by doctors or medical staff.
The Healthcare Coalition also held focus group discussions to have deeper conversations with community members who experience health disparities. From these meetings, the coalition learned that many community members struggle to meet their basic needs, feel that information is not communicated to them effectively, and have experienced discrimination when accessing or of receiving services.
search for a voice
The coalition also spoke with members of Census Tract 7505.03, a neighborhood that stretches from the north side of West Patrick Street to Shookstown Road. Considered among the most vulnerable areas in Frederick County, this census tract is home to approximately 7,500 residents, 36% of whom were born outside the United States. Here, one in five children and one in four seniors live in poverty, and the per capita income is $24,771.
The population is 30% black, 31% Hispanic and 7% Asian, according to the Community Health Needs Assessment Project.
Members of the census tract focus group said they struggled to find providers accepting their insurance and often without care. Together, the focus groups identified mental health, dental care, access to healthy food, affordable housing, transportation and communication as health service needs and barriers, according to the draft report. report.
They also urged the county to seek their voices more frequently, especially when designing services.
Volunteer task forces are currently developing plans to address the three public health priorities identified by the county in February: type 2 diabetes, mental health and adverse childhood experiences. These health concerns will guide local health improvement efforts over the next three years.
A local health improvement plan will be available by fall 2022. A final version of the community health needs assessment will be available in May of this year.