In an attempt to inform policy makers and keep the issue in the forefront of public debate, a three-year study of health-system concerns as seen through the eyes of the average Coloradan – including several from Southwest Colorado – has been publicized.
A list of top 10 health concerns statewide is available on the Internet. Not too surprisingly, access to health-care coverage and insurance costs were high on the list.
Eight residents of Archuleta, La Plata, San Juan, Dolores and Montezuma counties are among the 250 people from 27 counties who contributed to the Colorado HealthStory project.
“We made a top-10 list of health issues so policy makers can hear the real-life experiences of Coloradans,” Sarah Mapes, communications director for the sponsoring Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved, said in a telephone interview. “But ultimately, we want to encourage people to talk to each other about health issues and have empathy for the experiences of others.”
The study, which organizers plan to continue, has two other sponsors – the Colorado Rural Health Center and ClinicNET. Funding has been provided by grants, the Colorado Health Foundation, the Colorado Trust and donations.
The interviewees were free to address any health issue.
Among them were a woman who struggled to get dentures, a medical student who did volunteer work in Mexico, a breast-cancer survivor who described her surgery and follow-up care, and a registered nurse who works in a school-based health clinic.
Health-issue surveyors compiled their top-10 list of concerns based on recurring themes, Mapes said.
Interviewees were most concerned about:
Health-care coverage and access – elusive, expensive and limited even with health insurance.
Navigating the system finds hard-to-overcome barriers and leaves patients wondering if care is worth the headache.
Education and preventive health measures can sustain healthier, longer lives.
Health and wellness are common among Coloradans, but the state’s residents are not exempt from obesity.
Complex health conditions, in Colorado as well as elsewhere, are a threat to health.
Behavioral health statistics point to 1 in 5 Coloradans requiring mental-health treatment at sometime in his or her life.
Oral health, although preventable, affects families across the state.
Patient-provider relationships are important.
Engaged patients who know their needs, and won’t accept that nothing can be done to improve health, is vital.
Health disparities exist throughout the 42 percent of the state population who are members of racial or ethnic minorities.
“It was powerful to hear all these very different stories from very different people from all over the state,” Joe Sammen, director of community initiatives at the Coalition for the Medically Underserved, said in a statement.
“You then realized they were actually describing the same kind of issues – from how they experienced health disparities to patient-provider relationships,” Sammen said.