By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Following a New York State Department of Health initiative three years ago to analyze the challenges facing hospitals and health care protocols, Niagara County recently launched its own assessment.
Dan Stapleton, the county’s public health director, said his department will conduct a community-wide health assessment based on data collected from the region’s five hospitals and surveys now available online to residents. Once the data is collected the count will use that information to improve the way healthcare is applied, called a “prevention agenda.”
“It’s something the state Department of Health organized a few years ago,” Stapleton said. “We’ll use the data to make some changes.”
During the next several months, focus groups formed by the county will meet with hospital and school administrators and even supermarket heads to determine what ways entities both public and private can better direct resources.
The previous assessment conducted in conjunction with the state in 2010 pinpointed that one of the leading dangers influencing the health of county residents is the growing epidemic of diabetes, which like most of the country is increasingly affecting children, said Stapleton, who added that in response, the county put together a diabetes screening day last summer.
“There’s no doubt that diabetes is a problem in Niagara County,” he said.
While the state-sponsored assessment process looked at five health priorities, the county will focus on two provisions. The first will be determined after months of data are collected with a likely focus on diabetes, while the second “deal with disparities” among county residents like race and economics, Stapleton said.
While the hope is to coordinate among area hospitals to better serve residents and to avoid duplicity of services, the county is also anticipating that the data collected now could be used for future funding, as the state considers changing its funding model based on specifics.
“The feeling is that in the future that’s how funding will be rewarded,” Stapleton said. “Right now it’s based on your population, period. The state wants to take examples from things that are proven. We’re working together to improve the health of our communities, that’s the key.”
The county plans to submit the data it collects to the state health department by November. Stapleton urged residents to participate in a county-sponsored survey as well, which can be found online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/NiagaraCountyHealth.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.