Perry County Health Improvement Zone New Lexington Assessment Report
The Perry County Health Department (PCHD) received a grant from the Ohio Department of Health to fund a project to address social determinants of health (SDoH) and improve healthy behaviors of residents through meaningful community engagement and cross sector collaborations. PCHD identified New Lexington as one of the communities for the Ohio Health Improvement Zone project. Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service was enlisted to provide technical assistance for the project.
To assess health needs in the community, three focus groups were held in fall 2022 at locations in New Lexington. The following themes emerged from the discussions:
- Being healthy means staying active. More opportunities are needed for physical activity such as repairs and expansion of sidewalks, an indoor exercise facility, biking/walking paths, improvements at the reservoir, and a dog park. Affordable childcare is also needed to allow time for parents to exercise.
- Having a healthy mindset, positive mental health, and a support system is essential to overall health. Efforts are needed to inspire motivation for physical activity and build support networks.
- There is a lack of affordable housing in New Lexington. Moreover, the poor quality and inadequate conditions of some of the housing in New Lexington negatively impacts the mental and physical health of the children and families living in those conditions. Deterioration of properties also impacts community members’ perceptions of their community and may negatively affect their mental health.
- Individuals’ relationships and interactions with family, friends, and community members have a major impact on their health and well-being. Residents report divisions in the community based on socioeconomic status. Increased programming and activities—across all age groups—are needed to build social connections and support networks in the community.
- Feeling safe is an important component of mental health. Concerns about the ongoing substance abuse disorder epidemic and associated crime cause distrust, social isolation, and stress. Crime reduction strategies may be needed to increase safety.
- Technology impacts health and well-being. Excessive time spent using technology can impede the quantity and quality of social interactions. Efforts may be needed to reduce the negative impacts of technology on face-to-face human interaction.
- Being healthy means eating healthy. Greater access to foods that support healthy dietary patterns is needed to improve individuals’ health and the health of others in the community.
- A part of being healthy is being aware of resources and opportunities that are available to you. Greater promotion of information and resources is needed in the community.
- Having access to affordable health care is a major determinant of health. The high cost of health care often prevents people from getting the care that they need. Access to more services in Perry County is desired.
- Many Perry County residents live in poverty. The difficulty of accessing resources to assist the poor not only impacts the overall health of those in need, but also negatively affects the mental health of the people who are trying to help. Additional support may be needed to reduce the psychological stress on community workers.
- Generational poverty and lack of education have an effect on health. Education is needed to improve health conditions for children in poverty.
In addition, the participants described a number of resources in New Lexington that they see as positively affecting the health and well-being of the community.
Finally, residents were enthusiastic about the potential benefits of the Ohio Health Improvement Zone project in their community. A majority of participants signed up to participate in Phase II of the project.