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When it comes to health in Monterey County, we have some work to do.

Mental health survey

Survey respondents who participated in a countywide health needs assessment were most likely to report a “major problem” with mental health, followed by diabetes, then substance use. Courtesy of the Monterey County Health Needs Collaborative.

Pam Marino here to ask: How is your health? Is it good? Poor? Something in between? I like to think my health is good, but like most of us, it could be better.

Monterey County’s collective health could also be better, according to newly released survey results collected by the four hospital systems within Monterey County—Natividad, Salinas Valley Memorial, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula and Mee Memorial—along with the Monterey County Health Department and United Way Monterey County.

The agencies joined together last year to form the Monterey County Health Needs Collaborative in order to conduct the 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment. Such assessments are required every three years for nonprofit hospitals to maintain their status. (Health departments must conduct one once every five years.) They gauge what the needs are in their service areas, and track how hospitals are doing over time in meeting those needs.

After working closely together during the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, hospital and county health leaders decided to do the assessment together and in turn share the granular data with the public in hopes that other nonprofits will use that data to create programs targeting specific health needs of their clients and the community. Beginning in March, they surveyed over 3,100 people through an online form and over the phone.

What this first collaborative assessment showed was not too much of a surprise: Diabetes remains the number-one health concern in the county, as it has been for many years. It’s followed by nine others: mental health; access to health care services; nutrition, physical activity and weight; heart disease and stroke; substance abuse; housing; infant health and family planning; injury and violence; cancer; potentially disabling conditions.

The list was developed after a virtual meeting in September of over 130 healthcare and community representatives who combed through and discussed all of the data. So even though 77 percent of survey respondents noted mental health as a major problem (see By the Numbers, below), with diabetes second, the professionals took multiple factors into consideration to make diabetes the top community concern. Note that “housing” is seventh on the final list—it’s a social determinant vital to the overall health of the community.

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Eighteen percent of people who took the survey said they are experiencing “fair” or “poor” overall health. The number of respondents giving their health those poor grades is a higher percentage for those living in Salinas and South County. The county’s response is higher than the rest of California, which comes in at just under 15 percent. For the U.S. overall, 12.6 percent of people rated their health as fair or poor.

The results go much deeper, including data on health needs by zip code, age, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and other factors. You can view them all in a 205-page report available online at healthymontereycounty.org. You can also see an interactive view of the results at montereycounty.healthforecast.net. Or, for a brief overview on video, check out Wednesday’s Monterey County media briefing on YouTube.

During the media briefing, United Way CEO Katy Castagna said they hope that other nonprofits and agencies will dig into the results and use them to target their services. In three years, the collaborative will repeat the assessment to track how the county is doing in making a difference in our collective health.

Here’s hoping in three years, some of the health needs move down or off the list. In the meantime, we’ve got some work to do as a community.

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