2011 HARRISONBURG/ROCKINGHAM HEALTHY COMMUNITY COUNCIL COMMUNITY ASSESSMENT
Every five years, the Healthy Community Council conducts a community assessment to help evaluate health in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, set priorities for action, and assist community agencies in getting the data they need to improve community health.
We envision all students in our public schools meeting the rigorous standards set forth by federal and state expectations for academic achievement as well as all community members having opportunities to pursue life-long learning activities and experiences.
Data from the education sector indicate that improvements are continuing, though concerns exist. Assessment results indicate that end-of-the-year Kindergarten students are ready for first-grade instruction, and improvement on Standards of Learning (SOL) assessment scores indicate that students are meeting the high expectations for mastery of content. Students are graduating from high school at a greater rate. Unfortunately, the literacy rate in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County is below that of Virginia and the United States.
We envision a community where all people enjoy optimal emotional health; where mental health, substance abuse, dependency, and addiction are recognized as health issues; and where stigma and other barriers to recovery are eliminated. We envision a community where resources and services are sufficient to support the ability of its citizens to sustain healthy families and healthy work environments.
Optimal mental health and well-being enhance the quality of life. In the last five years, adults and seniors in both the City and County reported increased symptoms of serious psychological distress with a modest decline in symptoms reported among the Hispanic population. All three populations are well above national levels. Alcohol use and abuse among seniors has more than doubled since the 2006 survey. Disruption in employment activities of caregivers in both the City and County is higher than the national average.
We envision a community where our homes, neighborhoods, and business districts are safe places to live and work. Our community supports its residents by providing adequate law enforcement and affordable housing options.
According to survey responses on infrastructure, approximately 98 percent of our residents feel safe in their neighborhoods and approximately 95 percent trust our law enforcement personnel. Crimes related to assault, burglary, and property damage declined by approximately 17 percent over the past five years, but drug and narcotic offenses increased by approximately 21 percent. Despite a decline in housing values, a need remains for affordable work-force housing. An increasing number of persons are at risk for chronic homelessness, indicating a need for transitional and permanent supportive housing.
Our community’s social well-being requires that all residents, regardless of income, age, or ethnicity, have the means to achieve a satisfying quality of life. Meaningful access to key services, whether for basic survival needs or to improve the quality of life, are key indicators of a healthy, vibrant community where residents enjoy services that make life richer, whether it’s convenient transportation, Internet access, civic participation, or equal access to our system of justice.
Residents of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County have a strong tradition of working together to ensure social well-being and harmony; however, there are gaps in the community’s safety net of services for the most vulnerable residents. Twice as many low-income households lack Internet access than households in the area generally, creating a profound limitation on their abilities to access information that is readily available to others. Many households have difficulty in obtaining assistance with paying utilities, rent, or obtaining food in times of personal emergencies. Many of our residents, particularly senior citizens, have serious difficulty in obtaining needed transportation services.
The local economy supports a diversified mix of economic activities, which combined provide ample opportunities for productive employment, a strong consumer market, the capacity to fund needed public services, and a high standard of living that is shared widely among all citizens.
The area’s economy is growing after the 2008 downturn with new jobs and unemployment as indicators. The per capita income is rising and tourism continues to have modest increases. However, according to data from the United States Census Bureau, in 2010, the percentage of total number of children living in extreme poverty in Harrisonburg continues to be higher than the state and national averages.
The biannual Youth Data Survey monitors current and longitudinal trends of priority risk behaviors that threaten the health and safety of young people. Data from the Youth Data Survey provides accurate and valid estimates of the prevalence of youth risk behaviors. This quantitative approach reflects the larger community goal of identifying assets that will prepare today’s youth to become healthy, productive, and engaged citizens. Pairing this approach with our community vision, we will continue to develop proactive, youth-focused solutions. With our vision, these solutions will not only empower the youth of today but will lead to a vibrant economic workforce as we continue to move forward through the 21st century.
The most recent Youth Data Survey (2009-10) reveals promising results about the youth in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Youth assets are increasing. They are pursuing those things that make them resilient and more likely to grow into confident, responsible, and healthy adults.
The health of our natural environment is a key foundation for the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of our citizens. A healthy environment supports native ecosystems and enhances our quality of life through its natural beauty and wellness opportunities. A degraded or contaminated environment is harmful to living creatures and presents threats to human health and well-being. We measure the health of our natural environment through our natural resources of air, water, land, and native plants and animals. Our vision is that the community will work together to preserve and protect our natural resources.
Individual and corporate focus on preserving and protecting our natural resources has led to improvements in the health of our community. Fewer people are using chemicals on their lawns, more people are picking up waste after their pets, and fewer people are concerned about tap water quality. There has been a significant increase in sidewalks and bike lanes in both the City and County.
We see a community where all citizens have access to quality healthcare services, including preventative care, regardless of financial means. While we encourage individual health behavioral change, we embrace a comprehensive, coordinated effort to promote healthy lifestyles.
The health of a community includes children, adults, and seniors. Very low birth weights for infants are lower than the state average. Teen pregnancy among 15-17-year-olds in Harrisonburg is nearly twice the state average. Troublesome results indicate a delay in prenatal visits until 7-9 months or at delivery. Among adults obesity has increased, another challenge to health. Overall adults and seniors rate themselves lower on perceived health this year. More people are paying more “out of pocket expenses” for health care. Most people are able to obtain needed health care in a timely manner, although Latinos face more challenges than non-Latinos.