Survey finds preventive care, dropouts among top concerns

Survey says greatest health need is preventive healthcare. Pictured: Jeffery Kline, M.D.

What are the greatest needs facing our community?  United Way of Central Carolinas posed this question to Mecklenburg County residents via the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute’s Annual Survey last spring. The survey found the greatest perceived community health need is preventive care; the greatest perceived need for children and youth is dropout prevention; the greatest perceived need in housing and financial stability is job skills training.

United Way of Central Carolinas has joined with the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute to create a new resource for the community.  Explore critical issues of children and youth, housing and stability, and health and mental health on this interactive website.

In June 2010, United Way commissioned the institute to conduct a comprehensive community needs assessment for its five-county service area (Anson, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Union, and the Mooresville/Lake Norman area in southern Iredell County).   

To continue this effort, UWCC took part in the institute’s 2011 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Annual Survey of Mecklenburg County residents. The telephone survey took place between April 25 and June 21. An overview of the findings is below.

In the first survey question, respondents were asked to select the two greatest health needs for those least able to afford such services. The options provided were preventive care, education about healthcare options, health services for older adults, mental health services, and reducing obesity.

As Figure 1 shows, respondents felt the greatest health need in the community was preventive care, with more than a quarter (27.3 percent) of responses provided by survey respondents. The next most cited health need was health services for older adults (22.9 percent), followed by reducing obesity (21.1 percent), education about healthcare options (20.2 percent) and mental health services (8.5 percent). Further analysis of the responses to each cited health need did not reveal any significant differences by gender, age, race/ethnicity, or household income.

The second survey question asked respondents to select the two greatest needs for children and youth in the community. The options were early childhood care and education, after-school and summer programs, preventing high school dropouts, family services (e.g., training and education), teen pregnancy programs, and affordable dental care.

The most cited need for children and youth by survey respondents was preventing high school dropouts (23.9 percent), followed closely by early childhood care and education (22.9 percent). The third most cited need was after-school and summer programs (20.8 percent), followed by teen pregnancy programs (13.5 percent), family services (9.5 percent), and affordable dental care (9.4 percent).

Further analysis showed several significant differences by demographic characteristics, particularly by age and race/ethnicity, in three areas of need: after-school and summer programs, family services, and teen pregnancy programs. The demographic groups more likely to cite after-school and summer programs included blacks and younger respondents (ages 18-34). On the other hand, older respondents and white respondents were more likely to cite family services as a need for children and youth. In terms of teen pregnancy programs, younger respondents (ages 18-34) were more likely to cite such programs as a need for children and youth.

Finally, the third survey question asked respondents to select the two greatest needs in the areas of housing and financial stability. Respondents were given five options: affordable housing, community education about affordable housing, financial literacy counseling, job skills training, and assistance with utility payments and rent.

Figure 3 illustrates that the two greatest needs in the areas of housing and financial stability cited by survey respondents were job skills training (27.4 percent) and financial literacy counseling (23.2 percent). The third most cited need was affordable housing (22.1 percent); assistance with utility payments and rent (14.4 percent) and community education about affordable housing (12.9 percent) followed.

Further analysis showed several significant differences by demographic characteristics, particularly by race/ethnicity and household income. Specifically, nonwhite respondents were more likely than white residents to cite affordable housing and community education about affordable housing. On the other hand, white respondents were more likely to cite job skills training. The demographic group most likely to cite financial literacy counseling as a need was respondents with an annual household income of $40,000 or more. Those with less than $40,000 annual household income were more likely to cite assistance with utility payments and rent.

Much like the findings from the Community Needs Assessment, the results from this survey have provided United Way of Central Carolinas a better understanding of the needs of our community.  But where the Community Needs Assessment drew conclusions from secondary data analysis and the opinions of experts and human service agency personnel, this survey captured the perceptions of the larger community. Despite those differences, the findings were remarkably similar. Together, the findings from both research avenues have and will continue to help UWCC carve its path for serving the people of Mecklenburg County for the foreseeable future.

Eric Caratao

If your organization would like to be included in the 2012 survey, please click here for more information.