Mental health top concern among Wahkiakum residents
Affordable house also makes the list
October 12, 2023
The results of a Community Health Needs Assessment survey conducted by Wahkiakum Health and Human Services from March to July are in, but it’s just the first step in determining what will become action, as part of a future Community Health Improvement plan.
The next phase is analyzing data related to the priorities selected by survey participants in Wahkiakum County. That is just getting underway, and is expected to be completed in spring of 2024, Erica Zink of W.H.H.S. said last week.
Responses to surveys were anonymous. W.H.H.S. shared that 308 people completed surveys, representing one out of every 12 people in the county.
“We were hoping for some more,” Zink said. “I don’t think people realize how important filling out surveys is. We get survey fatigue. The more people we have fill out the survey, the better feedback we get, and the better data we can get for our community. I think it’s important for community members to know that.”
Twice as many women filled out the survey as men, and most of the surveys were completed by residents in Cathlamet and Puget Island, despite efforts by organizers to reach out to other areas in the county.
“We tried to do a lot of outreach,” Zink said, “but the west side of the county was hard to represent. They are notoriously hard to get a hold of. We need to find ways to reach them.”
They also had a hard time reaching people over the age of 80.
Based on the demographic information provided by responders, overall findings likely lean towards the views of residents who have a bachelor’s degree or higher, live in Cathlamet or Puget Island, and are middle-aged and female.
“That is kind of typical, nationwide,” Zink said. “We are such a small community, I would really love to see us balance that out more.”
Mental health topped the list of priorities for respondents. Affordable housing and access to primary care followed.
Zink’s next step is to look up subcategories for each of the various concerns.
“Mental health is such an umbrella term,” she said. “We are looking up all the data we can find that pertains to that. This could include data on things like death by suicide, or drug use. It’s a lot of analysis and statistics to work out. We want to be thorough, and for the data we give out to the public to be accurate and meaningful.”
She will be repeating that step for every category on the list.
“I’m surprised to see that there aren’t more chronic disease issues on here, or communicable disease,” Zink added. “A lot of it has to do with lifestyle.”
“All these things are important to the community, therefore they are important to us,” she said. “I am working really diligently to attack all these issues to see what we can do better, maybe better marketing on what services we do have, maybe people might not know what we have available.
“Or maybe we are missing some things, so maybe we bring in a whole new program.
“Once we have a Community Health Improvement plan, we will see if our numbers get better,” Zink continued. “In five years when we do this again, what is important to people might change.
“Maybe affordable housing will become a huge success and we can move on to something else.”
Again, she emphasized the importance of the surveys.
“I think people really don’t realize how important these surveys are,” Zink said. “I think if more people realized that not speaking up to these surveys means you are not going to be heard.”