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People don’t usually miss a chance to voice their opinions, but that’s exactly what’s happening with a community-wide survey this month. Sponsors of the Citrus County Community Health Needs Assessment survey said that far fewer responses have come in for the online questionnaire than when it was run three years ago, and they’re urging everyone to log on to complete it.

This survey asks residents for their opinions on county health-related concerns, not individual issues. The survey is anonymous, though respondents can provide an email address to be in a drawing for a $20 gift card.

A little history: Community Health Needs Assessment surveys have been conducted here about every three years. The last one, in 2015, saw more than 1,000 respondents. Currently fewer than 300 have responded, which is why health officials have extended the survey closing date. The Department of Health in Citrus County is the lead agency for this effort. It is working with WellFlorida Council, the state-designated health planning council for our area, to conduct the study.

The Community Health Needs Assessment takes a wide look at the community, the people, their health and the factors in the community that promote or retard progress in healthy living. The Technical Appendix is a compendium of secondary data on Citrus County, from demographics to health behaviors, outcomes and special concerns. Much of the information is to the ZIP-code level, or stratified by sex, race, economic level or other ways that help users understand the issues. This data is available to everyone in the community — and the information is especially helpful to community partners developing grant requests or seeking funding from other sources.

The Health Assessment Report is developed from primary data collected through the surveys, focus groups, workshops and related avenues for community comment. The target for delivery of results and recommendations is September 2018. This year the report will include a segment on the local public health system — which encompasses all the entities that contribute to the health and well-being of the community.

The assessment report will summarize the top four or five health-related community issues. It will be used by the Citrus Health Improvement Partnership (CHIP) to update its strategic plan, goals and action plans for the next three to five years.

The CHIP is a voluntary group drawing members from all major community segments, including schools, county government, hospitals, medical offices and other health-care entities, homeless agencies, a range of human service agencies, the faith community and more. CHIP subcommittees are based on the main health challenges that emerged in the 2015 report: access to care, mental health and substance abuse, healthiest weight and lifestyle/chronic disease, and availability of healthy foods. A healthy babies subcommittee was added later.

If improvements can be made in these areas, the health of Citrus County will improve. The CHIP committees’ action plans contribute to the county’s overall Health Improvement Plan, which must be submitted to the Department of Health in Tallahassee. Based on this year’s survey results, the CHIP group will modify goals and action plans as needed.

More responses will give greater confidence in the reliability of the results. Please log on to speak up about your opinions. The survey should be open for another week.

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