I.V. residents surveyed about their health

By Laura Mancuso
IVN Editor

Harmony Beckett from HIV Alliance talks to a table visitor Wednesday, Feb 7. Beckett helps Valley residents with resources at Immanuel Methodist Tuesdays and the Pop Up Public Health Wednesdays at Jubilee Park. (Photo by Laura Mancuso, Illinois Valley News)

A community health assessment event was held at the Josephine County Fairgrounds Feb.7 to highlight Jackson and Josephine counties’ health data collected in 2023 coordinated by a community-wide initiative called All In For Health.
Visitors were able to stroll through interactive displays and share their opinions with health advocates and professionals. Additionally people were able to gather health resources from many community organizations present at the event.
In April 2023, Illinois Valley residents participated in the data collection through an online survey and focus groups. The data was collected to better understand health priorities and the research was conducted by an interdisciplinary team from the Southern Oregon University Research Center.
After the assessment, a community health improvement plan was published. Here are the survey respondents’ key findings:

  • Cost of living: Being able to afford healthy food, housing costs, such as utilities, and debt.
  • Lack of affordable Housing is making it difficult for people to be healthy; community members believe this issue is worse where they live than in other areas. They also believe the lack of affordable housing is contributing to homelessness.
  • Access to care: Community members are having a hard time getting needed care such as primary care, dental care, and vision.
  • Affordable healthcare, often due to insurance limitations and out-of-pocket expenses, was a significant barrier to receiving necessary treatments, particularly in dental care, mental health services, and comprehensive medical treatments.
  • Lack of behavioral health services has led to the need for more mental health services and providers which include substance use treatment.
  • Provider shortage: Community members expressed difficulty in accessing specialized care, with reports of extended waiting times for appointments and a shortage of providers, particularly in fields like neurology, gastroenterology, and reproductive health.
  • Environmental risks: Respondents were worried about their health because of things like wildfires and bad air caused by smoke.
  • Public safety was raised as an issue due to the increase of community members experiencing homelessness and substance use.
    HEALTH …
    Continued from A-1
  • Community Building: A desire for initiatives fostering community well-being and support such as community spaces and increasing public transportation.
    -The Health Behaviors Most Affecting the Community Are:
  • COVID-19
  • Mental Health Issues
  • Substance Use
  • Obesity/Overweight
  • Asthma
    In total, 1,634 community members took the survey, which was an increase of 49% compared to
    2018 (1,100 responses).
    A group of older adults, 65 and older, were gathered at the I.V. Senior Center and hosted by SOU staff. The team from SOU documented the conversations and the following are some highlights:
    The lack of medical options dominated this Illinois Valley focus group discussion. Respondents pointed to the closing down of a lab that was run by Asante, the lack of specialists in the county, the lack of consistent primary care providers at the Siskiyou Clinic, a limited urgent care clinic, and a local pharmacy that is not open late or on the weekend.
    Transportation related to medical care was a significant point of discussion. When the group was asked about emergency care, one respondent said, “You call 911 and you pray a lot. Or get a friend to drive you to Grants Pass if you don’t want to wait for the ambulance.”
    This group was divided when speaking about the positives of living in a rural area. Everyone pointed to the beauty of the outdoors and a number commented on the joys of rural homesteading.
    Most talked about a strong sense of community. One participant recounted a recent house fire, “When the house burned down, you know, so many people came to help, so much money was donated, total strangers, but here in the valley.” Others referred to all the opportunities for senior participation such as at the senior center, the library, the garden club, and the quilting club.
    However, others spoke to feelings of isolation, “I came from Talent [and] Ashland, where I lived for something like ten years, and I find it really isolating to live here. It’s just, there’s very little to do for older people and there are very few opportunities to meet. So I’ve
    lived here for two years and haven’t met a soul, really.” After some discussion, one person
    commented, “I hear a lot of loneliness in this group.”

When talking about living in the Illinois Valley in general, the focus group participants referenced
the high cost of housing and the “huge” substance use disorder problem. Fear of encountering
people who want to rob them to pay for drugs leads many members of the group to avoid public
trails, and there is even some concern for their own property.

Another focus group was coordinated in the Valley with the focus on rural low-income residents that were under 65.
When speaking about non-healthcare subjects, the high cost of housing in the Illinois Valley
came up repeatedly as well as the suboptimal housing situations that a number of the
participants find themselves in due to high rents. Another topic of considerable discussion was
the sense of community that lifts up people in the Illinois Valley. Nine participants specifically
mentioned the support community members provide for each other. One person put it this way,
“I love just the advocacy that comes from the heart of lots of our community members. It’s just
grassroots, we take care of each other, we check in with each other.”

There was a stark contrast between the two mothers who were covered by OHP and the one
who was not. Those with OHP shared that they could not get a job because then they would
lose health coverage for their children and themselves. Meanwhile, the focus group participant
who was working was just above the income limits for OHP. She had employer-provided
insurance with such high premiums and poor coverage that the other members of the family,
including her young child, did not have medical insurance

If you would like to read more about the community health survey and focus groups you can go to https://www.allin4health.org/tiles/index/display.