Community health assessment reveals key health priorities for Washtenaw County

The Washtenaw County Health Department (WCHD) recently released findings from its 2023 Community Health Assessment, identifying mental health, access to health care, and access to healthy food as priorities for the county. The health department hopes its findings will continue to aid in collaborating with community members and organizations to address these issues and their root causes.

WCHD Community Health Analyst Dayna Brimley explains that 2023’s assessment was completed "very differently" than in previous years, providing many opportunities for community members to give input on the assessment. Community engagement will also continue now that the results have been published. The health department is planning to send a brief questionnaire to county  residents by the end of April to help the department shape the way it moves forward in addressing the targeted areas.

"We’re focusing on these three areas, but that isn’t to say there are not other areas of need that exist," Brimley says.

The assessment's full findings can be found on the WCHD’s Health for All website, and Brimley says the priority areas were in part determined by community members through one-on-one interviews and focus groups. She says many of those surveyed expressed feeling that their neighbors and greater community actually cared about them and wanted to provide aid when it was needed.

"If someone was in need, there was always someone who wanted to step in and help," Brimley says. "That's a great strength for us to have as a county. Not every community is able to say that."

Brimley explains that the health department’s next step is to continue to develop its Community Health Improvement Plan, or CHIP, over the next five years. Brimley explains that the health department is in the early stages of developing this plan. Department staff hope that continuing to use methods like focus groups and questionnaires will show county residents the health department is listening to their needs and help get them excited about providing input.

"Our plan is to develop together a set of goals and action plans with our partners on how to work together with the community to address these three priority areas," Brimley says. "We’re hoping that, because we’ve had lots of opportunities for the community to tell us what they thought was important and what they see as areas of need, that our plan aligns with them." 

More information on the Community Health Needs Assessment and 2024’s CHIP is available here.

"We want health equity and community voice at the center of our process," Brimley says. "These are big broad areas, and we absolutely need to work together with our partners and community members to help address them."

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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