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New report identifies Pima County's 3 most urgent health needs

Posted at 11:58 AM, Mar 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-19 10:06:14-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — A new report has identified the top health needs for Pima County, and could shape the near future for hospitals and public services in southern Arizona in the coming years.

The Community Health Needs Assesment -- which bases its conclusions on data from county health officials, hospitals and interviews with residents -- focuses on the county's three priorities:

Behavioral Health

Mental health and substance abuse are a key area for improvement in Pima County, health officials say. According to the new report, suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the county, and 13.5 percent of medicare recipients in Pima County are treated for depression.

Drug-induced deaths are statistically higher in Pima County compared to the rest of the state as well, the report says. Opioids are the fourth leading cause of sickness and death in Pima County, with alcohol ranking second.

Obesity and Related Diseases

Since the county's previous report in 2015, heart disease has passed cancer as the leading cause of death. The report also estimates around 13.1 percent of Pima County residents were diagnosed with diabetes by a doctor -- higher than Maricopa's 11.4 percent and Arizona's average of 10.7 percent.

Access to Services

The report finds tackling the other two priorities will be difficult without significant improvement in access to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. In particular, the report found a need for behavioral health care providers, like counselors and psychologists.

In Pima County, there is one mental health care provider for every 600 residents, the report says. That's compared to top-performing communities in the country with a ratio of 330 to 1. The report also identified those who live in rural communities as most lacking access to care.

Solutions

The county's report identifies five solutions to help solve these problems: a comprehensive approach to reaching Sservices; better cultural competency; greater access to healthy foods and food literacy; more professional development and training for school personnel; and improved resource and referral tools.

Read the full report on the Pima County Health Department's website.