By Johnny Jackson
More than 8,000 paper surveys will be available to Henry County residents next week, as part of Henry Medical Center's push to learn more about the area's health-care needs.
Starting Monday, and continuing through May 23, the 41-question surveys will be made available at 49 drop boxes throughout the county, according to Vicky Ayers, a registered nurse and community educator with Henry Medical Center.
"What's going to be really vital for the next two weeks is that we tell as many people as we can about the survey, and that we get a really good cross section of people in the county," Ayers said. "We want to be able to use the information we get from it to improve the health of the community."
She said the surveys, in their paper form, will take less than seven minutes to complete. They will be available at Henry County's public elementary schools, health department offices, senior centers, public libraries, certain area churches, Moye's Pharmacy locations, and the Hands of Hope Clinic in Stockbridge.
A liaison will help distribute some of the surveys to five Spanish-speaking communities in Henry County, she said, adding that residents may also complete the surveys online, through Henry Medical Center's web site.
The surveys are part of a more extensive formal assessment, according to Ayers, who is also the assessment's project coordinator.
Ayers said the assessment, known as the Henry County Community Health Assessment 2010, began in February with the first meeting of its advisory committee. The committee consists of several community leaders in Henry County, charged with overseeing the project.
"I think getting people on the committee from different walks of life gives the process a lot of different perspectives," said Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer, a member of the advisory committee.
"I think the intent of the whole survey is to actually find out the needs of the community, to find out what needs are being met and what needs are not being met, and to get a good, fair reaction from people," he said.
McBrayer said his profession in law enforcement deals indirectly with community health.
"We have so much involvement with the community, whether it be with our employees, or the contact with people," he said. "We look at it, a lot of times, from the mental health aspect."
McBrayer said deputies in his office occasionally have to transport patients to have mental health evaluations. "If their needs are being met in different ways, maybe they don't have to be transported by Henry County Sheriff's deputies," he added.
Ayers said the Henry County Community Health Assessment 2010 is a project to collect data that can be analyzed to help determine what health needs are most prevalent in the county.
"Up to this point, requests from the community have been to provide programs like health-related classes, free screenings, and health fairs," Ayers said. "The assessment will be countywide and will study a cross section of groups within the county and what their needs are."
Ayers said such a broad assessment of community health needs has never been done before in Henry County. She said the assessment, now entering the second of three phases, will take nearly a year to complete.
She said the first phase of the assessment included gathering secondary data, and existing data from sources like the U.S. Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The second phase, beginning Monday, involves collecting primary data from this month's online and paper surveys.
The third phase will involve focus groups, which will be held in July at Henry Medical Center.
Ayers said there will be eight focus groups representing eight different facets of the community, from church leaders to doctors and physicians, who will be answering questions about health issues and providing input on those issues.
"The information we gather will be compiled and analyzed, with the assistance of [faculty members at] Georgia Southern University," Ayers said. "The time line for data entry should be completed by August. Compilation of the data should be completed by the end of November."
Ayers said the final Henry County Community Health Assessment 2010 Report should be made public by the end of the year.