The 2021 Community Health Survey of adult residents in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties findings report is now available. This survey has been completed every year since 2016 with the intent to support and plan future initiatives, monitor changes within the community, as well as raise community awareness through the process of surveying. The sample size in the 2021 survey was 1,622, resulting in an average margin of error of ±2.5%.
The survey is spearheaded each year by North Country Health Care Partners. North Country Health Compass Partners includes representation from Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence county public health departments, hospitals, healthcare facilities, behavioral health clinics, and a wide array of community organizations focused on community wellness and education. The group utilizes trends and data from each year’s report to plan priorities and initiatives to promote the health and wellness for all who reside within the region.
“FDRHPO and other healthcare stakeholders use this data to develop actionable items that target the North Country’s specific healthcare needs,” explains Megan Donato, FDRHPO Data Analyst. “This year, the survey helps provide further insight as to the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the health of the community. We expect that, along with the serious health concern posed by COVID-19, the pandemic has many indirect consequences on an individual’s health. Many measures are returning toward normal, such as people regularly receiving healthcare for example; however, it is apparent that there are many health concerns yet to address.”
Below is a summary of some of the findings. The results for all survey questions, as well as much more detailed findings can be found in this link to the full report.
EXPERIENCES WITH HEALTH SERVICES
Four out of five (79%) North Country residents in 2021 have one person or medical office that they think of as their personal doctor or healthcare provider, a rate that has remained steady since 2016.
Interest in using modern technology such as email, text messages, an online portal, and apps to communicate with doctors has tremendously increased in the past two years, doubling from their 2019 rates.
Use of telemedicine in the North Country has increased tremendously in the past year, with participation rising from 29% in 2020 to 39% in 2021. However, preference for this practice is less prevalent now than it was when first measured last year, with one in three residents indicating they would likely choose telemedicine over an in-office visit in 2021, down from one in two in 2020 when the pandemic first began.
One in five residents report that, in the past year, telemedicine helped them get medical care that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to receive.
Top rated barriers to telemedicine – Respondents were asked about their greatest barrier to their use of telemedicine. The majority (35%) of respondents cited that they have no barriers. Among the actual barriers studied, quality of care in telemedicine (26%) was most commonly cited.
Although a majority of adults in the North Country have visited their dentist in the past year for a routine cleaning (58%), the rate of doing so is significantly lower than was found pre-pandemic in 2018 and 2019 (72% and 70% respectively).
When North Country adults self-assessed their physical and dental health in 2021, we see that the reported ratings are returning toward the typical pre-pandemic ratings. However, residents’ ratings of their mental health have continued the negative trend that started with the pandemic in 2020.
Five-sixths (83%) of adults in the North Country report having been to their primary care doctor’s office at least once in the past 12 months, including both routine check-ups and occasions when they were ill; 25% report having received care at an emergency room at least once in the past 12 months; and 13% report having been admitted to a hospital at least once in the past 12 months. In general, healthcare use within the past year in the North Country (doctor visits, emergency room visits, and hospital admissions) has returned to pre-pandemic levels after realizing significant decreases in 2020.
Alcohol use in the North Country has slightly increased since last year with four-fifths indicating that they drink alcohol (81%), and three-fifths indicating that they drink alcohol at least once or twice a month or more (58%).
Meanwhile, use of conventional cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, or e-cigarettes have remained more constant at 17%, 5%, and 9% respectively.
Marijuana use is about as common as tobacco use among North Country adults (18% use at least rarely, with 4% using daily). Residents show more opposition than support to prohibiting marijuana dispensaries in their municipality (35% to 30%); tend to believe that the legalization of marijuana will increase youth experimentation (55%); and few report that the new legalization law will cause them to start using marijuana if not already a user (6%).
83% of North Country residents indicate satisfaction with the availability of their family’s access to places where they can walk and exercise, either indoors or outdoors, and 95% are satisfied with the availability of their family’s access to healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables (95% reporting “at least somewhat available” in the North Country).
North Country adults very commonly indicate that in the future when feeling ill they will practice healthy behaviors including staying home from work, washing hands, social distancing, and even wearing a mask in public.
At the time of this data collection approximately two-thirds of participants (only among those age 18+) stated that they were fully vaccinated. Among the unvaccinated, when asked what would have the greatest impact on encouraging them to get vaccinated. The most common response “Nothing” at 35%, closely followed by “Convince me it is safe” at 31%.
Attitudes among parents regarding COVID-19 vaccination of their school-aged children are widely varied and tend to strongly parallel the parents’ own personal vaccination choice.
“The Community Health Survey measures and identifies key issues and gaps in our region’s healthcare system,” concludes Ms. Donato. “This information is critical in guiding our healthcare partners – hospitals, public health agencies, clinics, and community-based organizations – in working collaboratively to engage in comprehensive health planning to further strengthen the North Country’s healthcare system.”
Questions and comments can be directed here.