Callaway County is joining a community health assessment that should help pinpoint residents' health needs.
That will allow providers to apply for grants and bring in new resources to address health challenges facing the community.
So says Tiffany Rutledge, a registered nurse working in corporate and community health for Capital Regional Medical Center. She led an open meeting Thursday to allow area residents to share their concerns face-to-face. More than a dozen attended.
Rutledge said her goal is for 1,000 people to take the survey — double the number of participants in 2015.
In 2012 and 2015, providers, nonprofits and health departments in Cole, Miller, Moniteau and Osage counties have partnered for the assessment. This year, Callaway County's health department has joined the effort.
"We know there's a bit of uncertainty with health care in this county," Rutledge said.
She added CRMC has been working with schools in Holts Summit through a "Health Schools, Healthy Communities" grant — another reason to want a clear picture of Callaway County's situation.
At Thursday's meeting, attendees ranked what they saw as the county's greatest health needs and risk factors. A lack of mental health resources and transportation options were high on the list, as were smoking and poverty.
"Transportation has been mentioned at every single meeting I've been to, as well as mental health services," Rutledge said.
Elisabeth Wilson, a William Woods University employee in the social work program, said there are more mental health resources in the community than people realize — CARDV and the Center for Women's Ministries among them. However, informing the public about those resources can be challenging.
Attendees also talked about the lack of indoor recreation options and affordable insurance.
Jasmine Brown, a student in William Woods University's social work program, said she was surprised by the county's lack of walk-in clinics and specialists. She said she moved here from Fayetteville, North Carolina — a much larger town.
Rutledge said past assessments have led to major changes in some communities. The 2012 survey revealed major health needs in Miller County, for example.
"In their school district, 80 percent of kids are on free and reduced lunch," she said.
Plus, the major medical center, Central Ozarks Medical Center, is on the border of another county, miles away from the county's most populous town, Eldon. Since the survey, CRMC has used a Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities grant to work closely with the school district to keep kids healthier.
"We've even revitalized a park," Rutledge said.
She's also used assessment data to push patients to get regular screenings for common cancers, such as breast and colon cancer.
"We were getting cases when they were already a train-wreck," Rutledge said.
Now, doctors in her system have been instructed to remind patients to get the screenings during visits. It's already made a difference, she said.
Results of this year's health assessment will be available in August.