Health study will examine lifestyles Questionnaire deals with such habits as smoking, eating

Goal is to improve care

Hospital, county combining efforts to collect data

July 12, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Next week, members of more than a thousand Carroll County households will be asked to respond to a survey asking questions about their eating and exercise habits, their drug and alcohol use and their sexual behavior.

The questionnaire is part of a communitywide effort to identify the most pressing health issues in the county. The project, called "Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County," was launched in April by Carroll County General Hospital and the county Health Department with the appointment of a 40-member steering committee.

In addition to health-care providers, the committee includes law enforcement officials, social service professionals, business people and religious leaders.

The survey, which will be mailed to 1,200 randomly selected county households by Monday, is the first attempt to determine the specific health-care needs of county residents, according to partnership organizers.

"I think this will give us a lot of information so that we have a better basis on which to plan health programming that makes the best sense," said Barb Rodgers, director of health education for the county Health Department.

The survey is part of a larger effort organized and funded by Atlantic Health Alliance, a network of nine hospitals in the Baltimore metropolitan area that includes Carroll County General. The complete health assessment study -- including all nine hospital communities -- will survey more than 10,000 randomly selected households.

The survey was designed by Holleran Consulting, a Pennsylvania-based firm that has developed similar health questionnaires for other communities on the East Coast.

The Carroll partnership hopes to use the survey to gather a broad range of information about residents' health problems and their habits and behaviors.

Questions include: Do you wear a seat belt? Do you know cardiopulmonary resuscitation? Do you use sunscreen?

The survey also addresses the role of religion in people's lives, with questions such as: Do you pray? Do you have a religious affiliation?

"People might say, 'What does that have to do with health?' ," Rodgers said. "But it has a lot to do with spiritual and mental health."

Rodgers said the survey differs from earlier county health assessments because it attempts to identify behaviors that lead to illnesses.

"We know the leading causes of death in this county are heart disease, cancer and stroke," Rodgers said. "We're trying to look at what causes heart disease. Is it because we have so many people who choose to smoke or choose not to eat appropriate foods, or is it stress?"

Steering committee members plan to use the results of the survey to identify gaps in services and make recommendations to address unmet needs.

In October, the committee will form focus groups to study specific issues, including adolescent health and the elderly.

Steering committee chairman Arthur Riley, co-owner of Washington Heights Pharmacy in Westminster, said other communities have used similar surveys to develop health programs.

For example, he said that one community determined from health questionnaire results that adolescent smoking was on the rise and developed a smoking cessation program for teen-agers.

"I think Carroll County is in a unique position to take pro-active steps to improve health care," Riley said.

Pub Date: 7/12/96

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