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Substance Abuse, Food Insecurity Among Evansville's New Public Health Priorities

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The Evansville area has lower-than-average health outcomes in several different metrics. Local officials have identified four key areas for improvement as a part of the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment.

Those priorities are mental health, substance abuse, food insecurity, and access to care.

Public health experts chose what they saw were the top issues after looking at the data, combing through 500 survey responses, and holding focus groups with residents of Vanderburgh and Warrick counties.

The assessment is required by the Affordable Care Act and was done as a partnership between Deaconess, St. Vincent, and a handful of other groups.

A similar assessment came out in 2016. The priorities of that one included lowering the rate of obesity, , suicide, infant mortality, and certain cancers.

Programs have since been rolled out to address those issues, and although those problems are by no means resolved, Deaconess CEO Shawn McCoy says the old and new priorities are intertwined.

Take food insecurity, for example.

“Food insecurity means you don’t have access to healthy foods so residents are using the convenient stores to access their food so if we could get those quote-unquote food deserts replaced with grocery stores or farmers markets that offer those nutritious foods, we should see those obesity rates decline,” McCoy says.

Programs to address the newly identified issues should come out in the next year, according to McCoy.