Community members share thoughts on area’s health needs

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Community members shared their thoughts on the area’s health needs, resources and trends at a focus group held at the McGregor Public Library on Nov. 28. The event was one of several held in Clayton County, along with Crawford and Grant counties in Wisconsin, over the past few months. 

“We’re asking for input on what needs there are and how we can help address those needs,” explained Sasha Dull, chief development officer at Crossing Rivers Health in Prairie du Chien, who led the focus group with Crawford County Health Officer Cindy Riniker. 

Dull said local organizations, including hospitals, public health and UW-Extension, will use the input to complete a Community Health Needs Assessment. The assessment, and its corresponding implementation plan, are completed every three years, she added. 

Attendees started by indicating what they felt constitutes quality of life, what it looks like to live your best life and what good health meant to them. That included good physical well-being, nutritious diet, exercise, an active social life and good mental and spiritual health. 

“There are a lot of things we can do because we’re rural that are advantageous,” commented Dr. Craig Strutt, referencing access to locally-grown foods and opportunities to be active. 

People also listed the assets that can improve community health. Some of the biggest assets were recreational opportunities, such as hiking and biking on trails, as well as kayaking on area rivers. 

Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs deliver local, seasonal foods right to people’s homes. A variety of social opportunities, along with multiple faiths/places of worship, are also a plus, attendees noted. 

When asked if they would change anything about the area’s health needs, attendees provided a number of suggestions. Carolyn Scott said there should be easier access to transportation for people who don’t have cars. Homebound individuals could also use more support services, she added. Her husband, David Scott, said handicap accessibility could be improved. 

One attendee said greater access to dental care, especially providers who accept children on Medicaid, is needed. Even better fluoridation of water would help because it could access a lot of people and cut down on the number of children with dental issues. 

Increased retention of health care providers was also mentioned, as was local maternity services. People called for more awareness of mental health and substance abuse issues and additional resources to address those needs. 

While recreational opportunities are more plentiful in the summer, people felt it would be nice to have more indoor exercise activities in the winter. Michelle Pettit said more health and wellness classes, as well as a community location to hold them, would be helpful. 

Dr. Jonathon Moser said increased education is also key. 

“We need more people taking their health into their own hands, taking preventative measures rather than the catch-up we see at the end of life,” he stated. 

Dull ended the focus group by asking what the hospital can do to improve these things. The main thing, attendees said, was to utilize different platforms, from newspapers and radio to social media, to reach people and promote their message. Hitting all the age groups is difficult, they acknowledged, but it’s important to diversify.

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