Local News

How would you rate Highlands County?

SEBRING - Highlands County's churches enhance its quality of life, residents generally feel secure at home, access to transportation options needs work while more providers are needed for dental, vision and mental health counseling, a community survey states. The findings of the 2012 Community Health Survey, sponsored by the Health Council of West Florida, was made public this week. In Highlands County, 1,100 people responded to the survey, of which three fourths were female. The survey asked people to rank local health care services, and quality of life indicators, among other demographic information.
Half of the respondents rated their local health care services as "excellent" or "good." The percentage was higher among blacks and lower among Hispanics. "Those who reported the most difficulty in accessing the health care system were Hispanics/Latinos and those who answered the survey in Spanish," the survey states. Their common problems were not having a doctor for preventative services, not having insurance or money to pay for out-of-pocket expenses, language problems and lack of knowledge about available services. Dental, vision and mental health/counseling were consistently in the top three unment needs across all groups. For community services, churches got the strongest response with 79 percent rating them as "excellent to good." "No other service had strong ratings for excellent," the survey adds. Transportation, which includes public and private, was rated as poor by more than half. Shopping was rated fair to good by 72 percent; recreation services were rated as poor by a majority of respondents, while half of those who responded rated jobs with growth and higher education as poor. The county's environment was rated good to excellent by nearly 60 percent. "Knowledge about networks of support in times of crisis was low overall," the survey adds. While the bulk of the respondents were female, those with less than a high school education were underrepresented while those with advanced degrees were over-represented, the survey concludes. Nevertheless, the Highlands County Health Department plans to incorporate the findings into developing its action plans for future goals. "The survey did validate that the quality of services in our county are either excellent or good. Another positive result from the survey was that the survey respondents felt that they had good overall health," said health department spokesman Tom Moran. The results from last year also validated a previous finding about lack of physician access, Moran said. "This reinforced our ongoing efforts to prioritize access to care in our Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP)," he added. The survey was distributed widely in the community, he said. "A strength that was recognized was overall safety; 83 percent of the respondents felt safe in their community. Another strength is the variety of community resources available, however, the survey indicated that respondents are not aware of how to access these resources or that they are available," he said. Stemming from that, the CHIP committee has asked a sub-committee to evaluate and update the current 2-1-1 system. This allows the caller to dial 2-1-1 to obtain local information on community resources, he added.