New Pima County health assessment identifies four critical areas

New Pima County health assessment identifies four critical areas

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The biggest health concerns in Pima County are now in a new Pima County Community Health Needs Assessment.

The assessment is the result of a collaboration between Pima County, local hospitals, community health centers, tribal health leaders and others.

The year-long effort analyzed data and community input.

While Pima County is doing better than the rest of the state in areas such as physical activity, cancer screenings and vaccinations, the team came up with a list of four critical areas that need attention.

They are anxiety and depression, substance abuse and dependency, injuries and accidents and diabetes.

Now that the assessment is complete, the bigger job is figuring out what to do about it.

Every facility has been working on its own to try to deal with these problems, but now are all working together to tackle the tough issues.

However, it's not only the critical areas, but the causes of those issues, that need attention.

Some problems that have been identified as leading to health issues include poverty, access to healthy foods and to health insurance and health care.

There is one issue that cuts across the community and is worse in Pima County than in Arizona as a whole.

The assessment found that out of the top 20 causes of death in Pima County, four are related to substance abuse and dependency.

"Mortality rates related to prescription and non-prescription opioid use and heroin use are twice the rate of those in Arizona as a whole," said St. Mary's Hospital CEO Dr. Amy Beiter.

"The only way to float everybody's boat in terms of the health and well-being of this community is to be all working from the same playbook. The Community Health Needs Assessment is that playbook. It's what will guide us as we tackle the really tough, intractable problems," said Pima County Health Department Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia.

Education also is considered key.

"I always say that the most important thing that we can do for the health of Pima County is to lift children out of poverty and push them through the educational pipeline.  That's just a given," Garcia said.

The assessment concluded:

"Access to care is a theme throughout each issue identified. Health insurance is imperative for Pima County residents to receive regular health care and maintain better physical, mental, and emotional health. In addition to providing health insurance to residents, improving healthy lifestyles is an area where improvement is needed. Finally, greater attention to physical and mental health problems is needed to prevent a further increase in this area among Pima County residents."

Read the entire assessment HERE:

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.