by Casey Semos
For the past few weeks, I have been interning at Jones County Public Health in Anamosa, Iowa. It is a smaller county in terms of population, but I’ve learned that there are still diverse, complex health issues that need to be tackled. Working in Jones County is especially unique, as the health department is still in its early stages in terms of development. Being tasked to assist with the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) has been focused on involving the community and asking them what they think are the biggest health challenges in their community.
Update on Projects
With the Board of Health Meeting quickly approaching, it was important that we wrapped up a few of our projects and continued to work hard on the CHNA. After these past few weeks, we were able to finalize our Catalog of Services and Catalog of Data projects. To review, the Catalog of Services is a comprehensive document that pulled data from handouts, flyers, websites, business cards, and other materials, and has been compiled to offer a user-friendly catalog of resources available to community members in Jones County. Since Jones County is more sparse than surrounding counties, such as Linn County, we expanded the catalog to include businesses and services in neighboring areas. For example, there is only one dentist in Anamosa that accepts Medicaid patients, so it was important for us to outsource to other areas.
We’ve also finished our Catalog of Data. This is a document in which we took data from reliable sources, such as Healthy People 2020 and Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), and compiled that data to compare national-, state-, and county-level goals and data. This is important because Jones County does not have an abundance of primary data, meaning there are many gaps in important health data that could help create a clearer picture of the biggest health problems within the county. By collecting this data into one document, we can at least get a better idea about where the health department should be focusing its time and resources for the next five years.
Lastly, and most importantly, we are continuing to work on the CHNA survey questions. This is a project we have been working on since our first day, as it is a timely project and must be revised several times to ensure we are asking the questions that will get us the data we need. Working with the community is a crucial piece of the CHNA because they should be aware of what the health department plans to do to promote health and well-being. Also, the principle of transparency is important for trust between health professionals and the community.
Working as an intern for Jones County Public Health has taught me a lot about working at the county-level health department in a rural setting. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn the differences and similarities between working in a health department in a rural area versus a more urban setting. While urban health departments are more staffed and focus on immediate health needs, it seems rural is more focused on imminent health needs and less diverse health issues. Nonetheless, both settings require special skill sets to ensure the health of the public is protected!