By Judith Salkin
Since 2007, the Health Assessment Resource Center has published two Community Health Monitor Reports that established a baseline of facts on the health of both healthcare, access to it and the general health of the residents of the Coachella Valley.
On Feb. 13, HARC released the Executive Summary for the third triennial report and, in the words of Board President Dr. Glen Grayman, MD MBA and president of Desert Healthcare District, the report is a measurement that will allow healthcare entities across the Coachella Valley to “understand the health and wellness in the valley and provide a quantitative way to understand the healthcare needs and identify trends in the valley.”
Taken from cold-call interviews conducted from January through June 2013, the current survey is “a monumental achievement,” according to HARC CEO Eileen Packer. “For the first time, it tells us what has changes have happened over the past six years.”
Each 23 minutes survey covered a sample of 1,950 adults and 500 children, is comprised of 106 questions in a methodology developed by Kent State University. Unlike the previous two baseline surveys, this particular survey concentrated on the Coachella Valley.
The charts used in the data release demonstrated “statistically significant changes,” according to Grayman. A few changes that indicated improvements, and others that indicated that much was needed in the way of health education and access to care for a number of segments of the Coachella Valley.
Looking at the segment of the population in adults 18 and older, the 2007 survey noted that 3.6 percent of the population suffered from breathing disorders other than asthma. But the 2013 study showed an increase to 9.2 percent of the population, Grayman noted.
“Is that because there is a rise in the finding of more people reporting having Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or obstructive sleep apnea and the increase of sleep centers in the valley?,” Grayman asked. “Or possible increase of allergens and air pollutants? We don’t know; but we do know it has changed.”
And in an alarming statistic in the anonymous survey, nearly 30 percent of the adult population admitted to binge drinking in the 30 days prior to when they were contacted.
“Unfortunately that number is probably higher than reported,” Grayman said.
One disturbing statistic that showed up in the survey is the increase from 2.9 percent of the senior population 62 and older in 2007 reported incidents of elder abuse. That number jumped to 4.0 percent in 2013. While it is significantly lower than the national average of 10 percent, “it is a disturbing number,” Grayman said.
What has changed is that with the independent quantitative surveys such as the 2013 Community Health Monitor Report, organizations such as Desert AIDS Project, Planned Parenthood of the Desert, school districts and John F. Kennedy Hospital as using the information to obtain grant monies and attract more qualified healthcare professionals to the valley.
Linda Evans, La Quinta City Councilwoman and Associate Administrator of Business Development at JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio, noted that while JFK is a for-profit hospital, when prospective job candidates asked for statistics on the area, “we didn’t have a system in place to easily provide that information,” she said.
By embracing HARC and the independent data that they provide, “we can justify bringing physicians and other professionals to the community. It is an invaluable tool for us.”