Community Determines 3 Priority Health Issues
After a nine month process of reviewing local county-level data, Healthy Cabarrus’ Community Planning Council has determined the top three community health priorities facing residents in 2020. The top three community priorities for Cabarrus County are housing, mental health and early childhood education.
The 40-member local coalition is made up of health professionals, educational administrators, nonprofit directors, business representatives, and community members. This group reviewed secondary data from local, state, and national sources and reviewed primary data from over 2,711 Cabarrus residents through anonymous paper and online surveys.
The relationship between poor housing and health is a complicated one which involves many different factors. Individuals who have poor housing conditions are at increased risk of negative health consequences, including cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Evidence also shows that the stressors associated with unstable housing situations experience increased anxiety and depression. Problems such as damp, mold, excess cold and structural defects which increase the risk of an accident also present hazards to health. With an average of three evictions per day (100 per month) and more than 500 students identified as homeless, through Cabarrus County and Kannapolis City Schools each year, there is an undeniable lack of safe, stable, transitional, and affordable housing in the county.
Mental and Behavioral Health
Mental health heavily influences an individual’s quality of life. Access to mental and behavioral healthcare has been identified as a priority need in Cabarrus County since 2012. Just like physical health, mental health needs to be taken care of and maintained, with available, affordable, and timely access to care.
Data shows that from 2018 to 2019, there was a 20% increase in the number of psychiatric patients admitted to Atrium Health Cabarrus’ Emergency Department (ED). Between 2016 and 2019, admissions for anxiety, mood, and psychotic disorders rose 32%, while admissions for suicidal ideation rose 36%. In 2017, Cabarrus County EMS responded to 160 calls for self-harm; and by 2020, that number rose to 225 calls.
Education – Early Childhood
Evidence indicates that children learn more during their first six years of life than they do at any other point in their lives. Addressing the disparities in access to early childhood development and educational opportunities can significantly boost and have long lasting impacts on a child’s future health outcomes. Seventy-one-percent of children, 6 years old and younger, live in a household where their parents or single parent reports to work. Although there has not be a dramatic increase in the five and younger population, resources for early childhood education and care are becoming increasingly more challenging to access, as staffing shortages and cost limit availability. The early years are extremely critical and many studies have shown that early childhood interventions can produce long lasting impacts on a child’s cognitive, physical, social, emotional and behavioral development.
Foundational Issue – Equity
Based on the results of primary and secondary data analysis, the Community Planning Council decided that Minority Stressors and Discrimination, later classified as Equity, should not be included as one of the voting categories, but that it needed to be included in all the identified priorities and considered in each action plan. The community needs assessment process worked to examine health indicators by zip code, race/ethnicity, age, gender, or income whenever possible, shedding light on crucial disparities in health.The burden of poor health, lack of access to community resources, and disability in our country is experienced most acutely by racial and ethnic minorities and those with lower socioeconomic status. Also, these groups have been historically marginalized, discriminated against, or disempowered - putting them at higher risk of disease and mental distress.