Community health assessment identifies top health-related issues in Snohomish County

Mental health care access, opioid overdoses, homelessness, adverse childhood experiences, food security and prenatal care are top health-related priorities for the people of Snohomish County, according to the 2022 Community Health Assessment.

The Snohomish County Health Department published the Community Health Assessment (CHA) Tuesday. Staff reviewed data on nearly 200 health-related indicators and worked with a data committee of 15 community partners to identify significant areas of need. They also conducted focus groups and key informant interviews with county residents to gather qualitative data about health issues and barriers to good health.

“We hope that using a mixed methods approach paints a more in-depth picture of the health of our county and better informs any future health initiatives that follow the CHA,” Miyuki Blatt, the epidemiologist who led the project, said in a health department news release. “The lived experiences of underrepresented communities, like our BIPOC, youth or LGBTQIA+ communities, are not always captured in the data that’s available to us and it’s important that they continue to have a place for their voices to be heard throughout this process.”

Community members repeatedly shared that being able to meet basic needs such as food and shelter and having better access to health care, including mental health resources, are high on the list of priorities to improve health outcomes. Snohomish County continues to address these challenges by using federal dollars for local programs and resources around behavioral health, shelter and child care availability.

This type of assessment is done every few years. It is one part of a data-driven process focused on improving community health. By first understanding what the top health-related issues are, public health and community partners can then take a deeper dive into learning about those issues and creating a plan to help improve health. For the health department, the next step is known as a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). Work on that is expected to begin this year.

“Assessments like the CHA are important to help the county focus efforts on where the data indicate our community’s most pressing health concerns are,” Health Officer Dr. James Lewis said. “It’s imperative to engage community members with lived experience to inform data evaluation and to identify issues where data is unavailable or does not fully capture impacts in the community. A limitation to the data reviewed in this CHA is that it pulls from sources with a release lag, and many indicators do not include the past one to three years. The pandemic affected numerous aspects of health during that time, so the qualitative input from community members, focus groups, and the volunteer data committee has been essential to understand what our community sees as priorities today.”

“Keeping our community healthy is a high priority for Snohomish County,” added Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “The first step to solving a problem is having quality data to fully understand the scale of the problem. The Community Health Assessment gives us the information we need to continue our work to advance positive, systemic solutions to our toughest challenges.”

Local public health has conducted a CHA for Snohomish County every three to five years since 2009. The last one was done in 2018 and identified several topics that have come up again in the 2022 CHA, including mental health, opioids and housing.

Interviewees and focus groups noted strengths to build on, as well. Participants described supportive communities in the county that are hard-working, passionate, dedicated and built on strong interpersonal connections.

“This Community Health Assessment was a tremendous effort and I appreciate the hard work of our team as well as the community partners,” Health Department Director Dennis Worsham said. “There is a lot of work ahead of all of us in Snohomish County to improve health outcomes around the top issues identified in this CHA. This data helps us to identify key health needs and issues in our county. With limited resources, the Community Health Assessment allows us to invest our resources where there is the greatest need. We will use this data to work with our community partners, health care system partners, and our elected leaders to invest in a plan that improves the health of Snohomish County residents.”

General topics explored in the CHA include:

  • Demographics
  • Socioeconomic Environment
  • General Health
  • Access to Care
  • Behavioral and Mental Health
  • Substance Use
  • Injury Prevention and Safety
  • Communicable Disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Disease
  • Older Adults and Healthy Aging
  • Maternal, Child, and Family Health
  • Oral Health
  • Food Security, Nutrition, and Physical Activity
  • Climate and Environmental Health
  • Built Environments

Work on the CHA began last fall by the then-Snohomish Health District, and the data committee reviewed information over the course of about two months between October and December 2022. The report was compiled, reviewed and finalized in 2023 by the health department.

The full Community Health Assessment can be found online at More information on the upcoming CHIP will be available in the coming months.

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