New health assessment identifies 13 challenges that Douglas County residents face

From left, Dr. Cheryl Biesterfeld, and dental assistant Steve Frost, provide care Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, for Calum Ochsner 8, Lawrence, at the Douglas County Dental Clinic, 316 Maine. The clinic provided free dental care for uninsured children Friday as part of "Give Kids A Smile Day."

From left, Dr. Cheryl Biesterfeld, and dental assistant Steve Frost, provide care Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, for Calum Ochsner 8, Lawrence, at the Douglas County Dental Clinic, 316 Maine. The clinic provided free dental care for uninsured children Friday as part of "Give Kids A Smile Day." by Richard Gwin

Inadequate access to affordable nutritious foods and dental services are among the top challenges that Douglas County residents face when it comes to living a healthy life.

They were among 13 areas identified as needing improvement according to a new 38-page Community Health Assessment report released Monday by the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.

The department along with partner agencies have been collecting data since October 2011, and more than 1,500 Douglas County residents provided information for the report by taking part in an online survey, focus groups and one-on-one interviews.

Health Department Director Dan Partridge said the report helps provide a better understanding of the issues affecting the community’s health.

“The results of the assessment point out that future health status is not just about health care. Themes around employment, personal safety and transportation were just some of the themes repeatedly mentioned,” he said.

When it comes to access to healthy foods, residents listed transportation as being a barrier. Other comments included in the report:

• Eudora doesn’t have a farmers’ market.

• North and east Lawrence neighborhoods lack grocery stores and/or restaurants that offer healthy foods.

• The food pantry lacks healthy offerings.

Eighty-one percent of residents reported consuming fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

As for dental care, the report found one in five residents had not seen a dentist in the past 12 months. In 2011, there were more than 470 cases of preventable emergency room visits at Lawrence Memorial Hospital due to dental problems.

Baldwin City residents said that couldn’t afford to take off work to visit the Douglas County Dental Clinic in Lawrence, which provides services based on a sliding-income scale.

Partridge said the report is the first community health assessment that has been done in about two decades. He said the report tracked where emergency room visits came from for dental, asthma, diabetes and alcohol treatment, and most came from areas associated with poor housing and poverty.

Other areas identified as needing improvement:

• Insufficient access to health care and other services. Thirty-five percent of adults have not had a general checkup in the past year and 20 percent do not have an identified primary care physician.

Poverty and few job opportunities. Between 20 and 30 percent of the population lives in poverty. The rate exceeds the state average.

Limited access to safe and affordable housing. It is estimated that 13 percent of homes have an increased risk of lead exposure.

Abuse of alcohol. Fourteen percent of youths and 10 percent of adults had engaged in binge drinking in the past 30 days. More than 250 cases of preventable ER visits in 2011 were due to excessive alcohol use.

Lack of access to health insurance coverage. Nearly 15 percent of residents do not have health coverage.

Disparities in health care outcomes and quality of life. There are schools where 10 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch and others where 75 percent of children qualify. One resident commented: “Health depends on who you are and where you live.”

Inadequate access to mental health services. About one-third of residents reported having one or more days in the past 30 days in which their mental health was not good.

• Limited knowledge of available health and other services. Residents in Eudora, Baldwin City and Lecompton noted a lack of communication venues for events, activities and services.

• Lack of physical activity. More than 50 percent of residents do not meet recommendations for weekly exercise. Many residents noted a lack of sidewalks and recreational facilities.

Inadequate transportation linking people to services, jobs and recreation.

Prevalence of abuse and intimate partner violence.

In May, the health department will be hosting four 90-minute public forums to discuss the Community Health Assessment and to prioritize the 13 areas. Partridge said the plan is to have participants vote on their top two issues of concern.

Partridge said the health department can’t change any of the areas on its own and neither can the hospital or even the safety net clinics.

“We are going to have to do it collectively — as a community. I may be a dreamer but that’s the goal we are shooting for, anyway,” Partridge said.


The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department will be hosting a series of public forums to discuss the findings of its Community Health Assessment. They will be:

May 9 — 3:30 p.m., Lawrence's Community Health Facility, 200 Maine.

May 15 — 7 p.m., Eudora Community Center, 1630 Elm St.

May 16 — 7 p.m., Baldwin City Library, 800 Seventh St.

• May 17 — 7 p.m., Lawrence's Community Health Facility, 200 Maine.

To view the full report, visit the health department's website at

Tagged: Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department


Lawrence Morgan 6 years ago

This article is so full of important things to consider that I don't know even where to begin. Read it all!

Each one of these areas needs much more consideration- this article, and it's a very good one, is only a start.

Shardwurm 6 years ago

Lack of access to affordable higher education didn't make the list?

Jon Jambor 6 years ago

This was on the front page. Should have been in the comics section. May I offer a few counter points? 1. No farmers market in Eudora. This is a health issue? Who the hell can afford $4/dozen eggs anyhow? 2. No restaurants in North Lawrence with healthy food? That's not true. I had a lovely Chicken with Molle sauce at a cafe there just last month. It was pretty healthy, too. Rice, beans, corn chips, salsa. Nothing unhealthy there! 4. 81% responded to have less than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. OH MY GOD!!! The sky is falling! Hell, I haven't had five servings this WEEK! 5. The food pantry lacks "healthy" offerings. For Christ sake, it's donated food. Be thankful for the generousness of your neighbors. 6. I haven't seen dentist in the last year. Haven't needed the services of one. But, this is a REALLY MAJOR ISSUE! We HAVE to get the government involved. 7. Insufficient access to health care? Try picking up the phone (you probably have a cell phone) and make an appointment. Jesus, how hard it that? If you don't have a phone, just walk into a doctors office and talk to that gal behind the glass panel. She can talk. Really. 8. You want less 'poverty' and more job opportunities? Let's tax businesses more. that will solve the problem! They open up all kind of jobs with all the money they don't have. 9. Safe and affordable housing? Less exposure to lead? Well, don't eat the damn paint! And get a roommate. 10. Abuse of alchohol. Thank God we don't have a college in this town! 11. Lack of access to insurance? Again, use those unlimited minutes on your cell phone plan and make a few calls. Lots of companies out there would love to have your business. Lots of uninsured people? Do you think maybe those pesky college kids don't buy any. After all, they ARE immortal. Just ask them. 12. One third of residents have one or more day of bad mental health every month. This article depressed me, till I thought about it a little bit. Then I laughed. Then I thought a little more.. now I am depressed again. 13. Limited knowledge of events, etc. No communication venues: What do you want, a personal invitation. Read the freakin' paper once in a while! (May I suggest the Lawrence Journal World?) 14. Lack of activity: Turn off your plasma TV and get off your fat ass. We need a government program to tell people to do this? Sad 15. Lack of transportation to get to services, jobs, and recreation. Take up biking and walking as a recreation. It will double as a means to get to jobs and services. And as a bonus, it takes care of item 14.

Paul R Getto 6 years ago

ktgman: Interesting comments. I do agree with some of them. We are becoming a nation of wussie-boys and girls. There are, however, legitimate needs that you discount. There are people in serious need of help and, as Willie Lowman said, "Attention must be paid."

Jon Jambor 6 years ago

Which ones? And do we need BIGGER government to address them?

Jon Jambor 6 years ago

I guess what really irks me, is that the poor personal choices people make become "Public Health Issues" Where does it stop? What happened to the idea of personal responsibility? I understand that there are critical public health concerns when it comes to communicable diseases. These are things that no one has any control over. TB comes to mind. But lack of stationary bikes? Puhleese! My dad worked for the San Francisco County Health Department after WWII and his job was to round up all the whores on a weekly basis and test them for venereal diseases. (What great stories he told!). It was more of a occupational hazard than a lifestyle choice. Am I against such testing? No. Disease control is important. But it seems that the definition of what is a disease or public "health concern" gets bigger and bigger. Sooner or later, we just won't have the money to cover everything. We're broke, and we we are asked to keep spending more and more money! It's got to stop.

Karrey Britt 6 years ago

The report contains specific quotes from Douglas County residents and more detailed information, please check it out at For example, a homeless member of the Lawrence community said that she was "grateful" for the food received, but said that the choices often are not healthy. She said: "I would trade that whole table of sweets for just one carrot." I hope the commenters plan to attend one of the forums.

Karrey Britt 6 years ago

Great question. I do not know why they didn't schedule a forum in Lecompton, but I will give them a call. Check back for a response from me or the health department. Thanks.

ldchealth 6 years ago

To answer your questions, none2, Lecompton is served by the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, since it is within Douglas County.

An open community meeting regarding the assessment was held in Lecompton Feb. 9. A focus group related to this same work was held Feb. 17.

The Health Department is planning a follow-up meeting in Lecompton in early June. Community resident Cyndi Treaster is working on making the arrangements. Cyndi encourages Lecompton residents to contact her so she notify them of this follow-up meeting.

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