Women2Women - Winter 2018 - 30

important data points about the region. For
example, the population of Berks County is
relatively homogeneous overall, except for the
City of Reading, where many residents (almost
60 percent in 2010) are Latino. The City of
Reading also has a younger population than the
county as a whole, and its residents are poorer
than the county as a whole. In fact, at the time,
the City of Reading had the largest share of
its population in poverty among cities in the
U.S. with a population of 65,000 or more.

Foundation, United Way of Berks County,
Berks Community Health Center and Penn
State Health St. Joseph - identified four
local health priorities through this process:
* Obesity
* Mental health
* Chronic illness
* Access to care.

Overall, Berks County residents were found
to be in good health when compared to many
other areas of the state and nation. However,
reflecting national trends in health status,
heart disease was the leading cause of death,
followed by all forms of cancer and stroke.
In addition, many adults in our region suffer
from obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes,
and untreated mental health conditions.

During the Community Health Needs
Assessment process, Franklin & Marshall
College and Holleran Consulting provided
research support by gathering statistics and
qualitative feedback that provided the information the partners used to identify the priorities.

Based on these findings, two broad-based
recommendations emerged: increase access to
care and enhance personal health behaviors.
These recommendations are relatively broad,
so a community-wide Advisory Committee
was tasked with further analyzing the findings
and prioritizing areas of opportunity. From
there, three priorities were identified, including
preventive care, prenatal care, and specialty care.
The priorities challenged the entire community
to get engaged and get involved. And before
long, the next CHNA iteration was set to begin.

The 2016 Findings and the
New Health Initiatives

Beginning in July 2015, the collaborative
partners and Advisory Committee began the
next CHNA process. In 2016, the partners -
Reading Hospital, Berks County Community

These priorities impact a significant number
of Berks County's population.

Since 2016, initiatives have been implemented that target these challenges and
improve services for people who experience
conditions such as poverty, food insecurity,
unemployment and lack of transportation -
all of which can be barriers to care.
In addition to the Community Health Needs
Assessment, partners like Reading Hospital
and Penn State Health St. Joseph (PSHSJ)
developed Community Health Implementation
Plans, which outline goals and strategies for
addressing each of the four health priorities.
Obesity is a top health priority in Berks
County. The Community Health Needs
Assessment identified that about two in
three residents in Berks County, or 200,000
adults, are overweight or obese. Obesity can
contribute to serious medical conditions such
as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and
certain types of cancer.

Addressing obesity means targeting ways
to reduce it, including offering education on
healthy eating, increasing community members'
access to healthy food, and promoting physical
activity and exercise - outside the workplace
and also through workplace wellness programs.
Addressing mental health is another community priority. In Berks County, 20 percent of
residents experience anxiety or depression, and
suicidal ideation is a top health concern. Each
health partner recognized that in addition to
strengthening mental health services, it is critical
to reduce people's stress levels by enhancing
people's quality of life with adequate housing,
safe neighborhoods, access to jobs, high-quality
education, and access to quality healthcare.
Chronic conditions like diabetes have hit
troubling levels in the United States, and Berks
County is no exception. Managing those conditions is of utmost importance, and therefore new
programs and support are necessary here in Berks.
Access to care is another priority identified
in the Community Health Needs Assessment.
People may lack access to care for a variety of
reasons, including lack of health insurance,
language barriers, lack of transportation to
appointments and inability to pay for outof-pocket expenses, to name a few.
No matter who you are in this region, it's
likely one of these issues impacts your and/or
your family's health. While health providers
are making shifts to ensure the wellness of
Berks County can be improved, it's vital we
stay in the know regarding new programs,
changes, and the ways we can work together
for better overall community health.



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