1. Archive

Survey aims to improve public's health

The Hernando County Health Department hopes a telephone survey will help target gaps in health care.

The $15,000 survey is part of a larger continuing effort aimed at helping people lead healthier lives. It will be the second in the county since 2001.

As before, feedback will be plugged into a report intended to create a snapshot of current community health needs. This data will also include demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, as well as facts about health care access.

Residents can expect calls to begin Wednesday and continue through the end of March. About 1,000 people will be randomly asked to participate anonymously.

Questions will cover topics like weight, age, diet, whether the participant has ever had a mammogram or if he or she wears a seat belt. The survey should take no longer than 20 minutes.

A combination of county and state funds will pay for the survey. The Health Department, county health care advisory board, County Commission and WellFlorida Council in Gainesville have contributed to the project.

While money is available, the department hopes to continue doing surveys every five or six years, said Kathy Sauskojus of the Hernando Health Department.

The survey and final health needs report provide county-specific information that will then be compared with state and national statistics.

According to Health Department administrator Elizabeth Callaghan, this information not only helps the department secure grants, but gives county commissioners an idea of how to provide better health care in the county.

Sauskojus said hospitals could also use the information to determine what kind of services to offer residents in the future.

The new study will also show whether previously identified needs have been met, while identifying new ones.

"It will really help us get our finger on the pulse of the health needs of our county," Sauskojus said. "This is the opportunity for residents to give their feedback. We hope they won't hang up."

The department conducted its last survey in 2001. The final health needs report showed that heart disease and cancer were the leading causes of death for residents, as in the state and nation.

It also showed that citizens did not have as much access to health care as they should. And due to high early death rates from diabetes and car accidents, Hernando residents were found to have some of the worst health in the state.

Statistics from the 2001 report helped the Health Department secure a $135,000 annual federal grant for four years. The money funded the county's Chronic Disease Health Promotion and Education initiative.

This program aimed to decrease tobacco use in adults, decrease the number of children exposed to second-hand smoke, inform residents of signs of heart attack and stroke, properly train diabetics on treating their condition and increase physical activity, said Ann-Gayl Ellis, also of the Health Department.

"It provides us with a foundation to get further resources to help people," Ellis said. "It's not just for the Health Department. It benefits the whole county."

The 2006 health needs report is expected to be complete by July.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at, or 352-848-1432.


For information about the 2001 Hernando Community Health Needs Assessment, go to the Hernando County Health Department Web site at