Mental health, obesity and substance abuse continue to be areas of concern for Lancaster Countians, says a new community health needs assessment commissioned by Lancaster General Health, LiveWELL Lancaster County, and WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital.
 
Key findings of the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment are similar to a 2012 survey, which identified healthy weight, tobacco use and mental health as the area’s biggest health challenges and led to an action plan aimed at reversing those challenges. The 2016 assessment includes those challenges from the 2012 survey as well as the new focus area of substance abuse.
 
“People did become healthier and we made progress under the current plan,” said Alice Yoder, Community Health Director, LG Health. “But these are complicated, big problems that we knew wouldn’t be solved quickly. It will continue to take focus, coordination and resources. This updated assessment helps us to understand the needs of our community more fully so that we can effectively respond.”
 
Mental health ranked as one of the poorest performing health topics for Lancaster County. The county has a higher rate of depression, and Alzheimer’s disease or dementia among the Medicare population, when compared to other Pennsylvania counties. Additionally, it is estimated that 31.6 percent of the county’s adolescents, or 18,000 people, felt depressed or sad during the prior year. Nearly 140,000 adults reported having one or more days of poor mental health each month, according to the assessment.
 
Approximately 66 percent of adults in Lancaster County reported being overweight or obese – more than 267,000 adults. While this is a lower rate as compared to the state, Lancaster does have a high density of fast-food restaurants and a lower density of fitness and recreational facilities.  Additionally, it is estimated that 131,396 Lancaster County residents do not have access to exercise opportunities or live reasonably close to a park or recreational facility.   
 
In the area of substance abuse, one of the most compelling performance indicators shows that approximately 34 percent of driving deaths in Lancaster County involved alcohol impairment. An estimated 60,814 adults are impacted in some ways by binge drinking.
 
The Community Needs Assessment is based on a comprehensive analysis of far-ranging data and input from healthcare providers, social services agencies and community groups. In response, LG Health has renewed its commitment to address these health threats in a new, three-year plan that will start in 2017.

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