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The anonymous survey for Branford, North Branford/Northford and East Haven residents ages 15 and up is online through July 22. Paper copies are also being distributed through some community projects. Image from www.esdhd.org )
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Residents of Branford, North Branford and East Haven are being asked to take a few minutes and complete an important anonymous survey that will help determine what areas of public health need support or improvement in their towns.
East Shore District Health Department (ESDHD) and its Community Health Improvement Planning (CHIP) board collaborated to put out the Community Health Survey, said ESDHD health educator, CHIP founder and survey leader Barbara Naclerio. Naclerio instituted the survey, which comes out every four years, through ESDHD 12 years ago. CHIP was established four years ago.
"We are a group consisting of town entities, local agencies, hospitals and various groups and residents helping improve the health and services in the community," said Naclerio of CHIP. "This survey and results are very important as we only conduct it every four years and use it to guide our decisions on what areas to help improve in the health of our community."
Among discussions taking place at monthly meetings of the CHIP board, which has been meeting virtually during the pandemic, Naclerio said, "...the big issue we're seeing coming down the line is going to be housing, because a lot of people who rent haven't been able to pay their rent. There was a moratorium on rent for a little while. What's going to happen to these people when the rent is due?"
Another issue under discussion is the second wave of COVID-19 which could potentially hit this area, she said.
"Nobody has a crystal ball, nobody knows what's really going to happen, but we are concerned," she said.
Having a tool such as the Community Health Survey is one way to prepare for emerging needs.
This is the third iteration of the survey, which can be taken by residents ages 15 and up from the three towns served by ESDHD: Branford, North Branford/Northford and East Haven. As an added incentive, residents who fill out the survey have a chance to win one of three $50 Amazon Gift Cards, if they elect to be placed in a drawing upon completing the survey.
Naclerio said past responses have pointed to the need for support with issues such as anxiety and depression, leading to programs and additional support networking for residents.
"The biggest thing for me was seeing how many people suffer from anxiety and depression. I was shocked. I'm less shocked now that I know a lot of the mental health professionals [through CHIP]," she said. "I guess I never saw public health as being a partner or being involved in the mental health field; but now, we are."
Other areas of need uncovered by past surveys include the opioid crisis, leading to ESDHD's Narcan training and free distribution of the life-saving anti-overdose Narcan kits, networking for addiction treatment, and help for medical doctors navigating new prescription registration laws in the state.
"We have a whole opioid program now, where we do Narcan programs and we train doctors on how to use the state registration system; and we're partners with a lot of people who provide the resources for people to get treatment," she said.
Another telling survey response in the past: the rise of E-cigarette and vaping, resulting in educational and other support for residents.
This time around, the survey includes COVID-19 related questions together with many other questions regarding physical health and well-being. Questions range from frequency of visits to the doctor and dentist to listing smoking, drug or alcohol use, providing any diagnosed illnesses, supplying information on nutritional and mental health; as well as giving input on the types of health-related support residents currently receive -- or don't receive.
A quick sampling of over 500 responses received to date is already showing that concerns about COVID-19 are still very real, said Naclerio.
"In response to the question about how COVID-19 has affected them, there's a lot of people who are anxious about it. That's probably the biggest response I get to that question; and I can understand that," she said.
The survey opened on June 22 and is available online here through July 22. Some paper copies are also being distributed as a collaborative with certain CHIP member programs, such as senior-based homebound meal delivery programs, said Naclerio. A Spanish version of the survey is being planned for distribution with its own link, and also will be distributed at Spanish-speaking stores in East Haven as well as through East Haven education programs.
Naclerio anticipates culling all of the data and publishing a report on the results of the survey by the end of August. Those results will be posted to view at the ESDHD website, www.esdhd.org
"I'm sure everybody's interested in how everybody's health is, and what are the problems," she said.
For more information visit www.esdhd.org or contact Barbara Naclerio, MPH, CHES, Health Educator at (203) 481-4233 Ext. 569. East Shore District Health Dept. is located at 688 East Main St. Branford.
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