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Perry County Health Improvement Zone Southern Perry County Assessment Report

September 27, 2023

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 and improve healthy behaviors of residents through meaningful community engagement and cross sector collaborations. PCHD identified the Southern Perry County villages of Shawnee, New Straitsville, and Hemlock 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, five focus groups were held in fall 2022 at locations in the Southern Perry County villages. The following themes emerged from the discussions:

  • Individuals’ relationships and interactions with family, friends, and community members have a major impact on their health and well-being. Increased programming and activities—across all age groups—are needed to build social connections and support networks in the community. Facilities are needed to host such activities.
  • 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. Greater access to health care is desired, such as through a mobile clinic or day clinics.
  • Being healthy means eating healthy. Food insecurity is an issue for many children and families in Southern Perry County. Greater access to foods that support healthy dietary patterns is needed to improve individuals’ health and the health of others in the community. Education about eating healthy is also needed.
  • The ongoing substance abuse disorder epidemic and the associated crime affects the wellbeing of the community as it causes mental distress and social isolation. Feedback from residents suggest that both treatment and increased law enforcement efforts are needed in Southern Perry County.
  • Southern Perry County residents are concerned that their tap water is contaminated and that they will experience negative health issues if they drink the water. Residents from all three communities indicated they buy bottled water, which is a major expense for such an essential physiological need. Improvements in the quality of the water are needed.
  • Many residents in Southern Perry County live in poverty. The poor quality and inadequate conditions of some of the housing in Southern Perry County not only negatively impacts the mental and physical health of the children and families living in those conditions, but also impacts the overall safety and well-being of the community.
  • Having a healthy mindset and positive mental health is essential to overall health. Additional resources for mental health are needed including support for addiction and recovery.
  • Being healthy means staying active. More opportunities are needed for physical activity such as an indoor exercise facility, sidewalks, and bicycle/walking paths.
  • Lack of transportation affects many other determinants of health in the community because it hinders access to services and opportunities. Increased transportation options in Southern Perry County may be warranted.
  • A part of being healthy is being aware of resources and social opportunities that are available to you. Greater promotion of information and resources is needed in the community.
  • Resources are needed to maintain and improve the recreational resources/facilities that exist in the community.
  • Generational poverty and lack of education impact health. More education, especially pertaining to health literacy, is needed.

In addition, the residents of New Straitsville, Shawnee, and Hemlock described a number of factors in their communities that they see as positively impacting the health and well-being of Southern Perry County residents. Above all, the resource most frequently cited (especially in the Shawnee and Hemlock groups) was the people that live in the communities.

Finally, residents were enthusiastic about the potential impact of the Ohio Health Improvement Zone project on their communities. A majority of participants signed up to participate in Phase II of the project.

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