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Local

Stakeholders discuss Kane County’s health priorities

GENEVA – Kane County, which was recently ranked the fifth healthiest county in the state, has 15 years to reach its goal of being the healthiest county in Illinois by 2030.

At a Community Health Assessment stakeholder meeting Friday, a few dozen people provided input about what they think the top three health-related issues are facing the county.

Mental health, chronic disease and income and education topped the list, which also included substance abuse, access to health care and immunizations.

“Many of these issues are intertwined,” said Jess Lynch of the Illinois Public Health Institute.

Barb Jeffers, executive director of the Kane County Health Department, said attention is shifting to developing the county’s health priorities now that the Community Health Status Assessment is completed.

The assessment – which is detailed in a 269-page report – was a data-driven approach to determine the health status, behaviors and needs of Kane County residents. It is intended to provide information so the community may identify the issues of greatest concern and decide where to commit resources.

Assessing the health in Kane County included more than diet and exercise, said Dan Eder of the health department. Education, employment, access to care, community safety and housing and transit were among other factors considered.

Friday’s meeting, which was at the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva, aimed to share data with the stakeholders and gather more input, particularly about what the county’s priorities should be for the next three years.

Data included survey responses from residents, who rated such issues as mental health, substance abuse, diabetes, heart disease and stroke and access to health care services as major or moderate problems.

Stakeholders raised concerns about the accuracy of the survey results since it relied on self-reporting. Jeffers said surveys are helpful because they are more timely than secondary data, which might be 5 years old.

The stakeholders also named other health issues they would highlight that were not discussed, including body image and eating disorders, isolated elderly populations and fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives.

Liz Eakins, the executive director of Lazarus House in St. Charles, said she was “very concerned substance abuse is not receiving a ton of attention here.”

Visit www.kanehealth.com/cha.htm for information about joining the stakeholder group.

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