Housing emerges as top priority from New Hanover's Community Health Needs Assessment
New Hanover County has recently finished conducting its Community Health Needs Assessment. The county does this assessment every three to four years. This year, they partnered with Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center and UNC Public Health.
The county surveyed 1,334 people in the community about their healthcare concerns.
The top priority was housing — and, according to the county, "factors related to affordability and quality can have negative impacts on health outcomes."
In the survey, about 76% of the respondents said they were concerned about the lack of affordable and safe housing in the area. Further, about 70% disagreed that they could find affordable housing.
The second need, according to the survey, was mental health and substance use, and the third was access to healthcare.
Jon Campbell is the newly-appointed health director for the county. He said, when it comes to access to healthcare, residents need timely diagnosis and treatment of health conditions.
“While New Hanover County meets the [North Carolina] Healthy 2030 goals for a number of primary care medical providers, our county has fewer licensed mental health facilities per population when compared to our peers. Within the past year, ⅔ of the respondents reported a barrier to medical service, including high cost, no available appointment, insurance not covering services or transportation or other accessibility barriers,” Campbell said.
The peer counties in the study were Brunswick, Gaston, and Buncombe.
Additionally, the survey identified a fourth need: economic opportunity.
The county’s health and human services director, Donna Fayko, said that the county should pay attention to this economic piece, because, “Poverty overlays all these domains.”
The report is not finalized yet, and needs to go to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for final approval; the county's health and human services team expects this to happen soon, according to a county spokesperson.
The next step after that is to address each priority in an upcoming action plan, which officials say should be out in the fall of this year. In the meantime, they’ll be conducting more ‘community conversations’ to inform this future plan.
County Manager Chris Coudriet said the findings of this report, once finalized, will eventually become a part of the county’s strategic plan.