Johnson County Public Health to measure county health since COVID-19

The Johnson County Public Health community health assessment is available for people to take from Sept. 22 to Oct. 21. This is the first year that other factors, such as mental health and financial well-being, have been included in its assessment.


Grace Kreber

Jamie Gade Public Health Systems Analyst and Lisa Parlato Chronic Disease Prevention Specialist for Johnson County Public Health pose for a portrait at the Johnson County Public Health building in Iowa City on Wednesday Oct. 5, 2022.

Kate Perez, News Editor

Johnson County Public Health is asking for feedback on community members’ well-being with its recently launched community health assessment. 

The 2022 assessment went live online on Sept. 22 and is available for Johnson County residents until Oct. 21. 

Jamie Gade, the Johnson County Public Health systems analyst, said the assessment is the first since COVID-19 that covers all areas of a person’s health. While there have been assessments conducted with community partners, this is the first one focused on health status including the number of poor mental health days. 

“We’ll be talking about housing, utilities, finance,” Gade said. “We’ve got some other questions on immunizations and health screening, and then some kind of neighborhood safety questions, transportation, so it really covers a lot of different areas.”

Issues that are not directly related to one’s physical health, like finances, can still play a part in a person’s overall health, she said.

“If people are having a hard time affording utilities, they might have to make a choice where they are either paying to keep their lights on, or they’re paying for food,” Gade said. “So those decisions are huge and have a huge impact on our health.” 

This detriment to a person’s health can also be from housing issues like eviction, she said.

“[Eviction] is a huge determinant of your health because you don’t really have a stable place to stay, and so that’s all you’re thinking about,” Gade said. “You’re not really thinking about, ‘do I need to go to the dentist this week?’ Or ‘do I need to go get the COVID vaccine?’”

Gade said the department is hoping for as many responses as possible so there is a clear picture of the health status in Johnson County. 

The results of the assessment will help the department understand inequities and disparities in the community across areas like race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and age, and help create the county’s health improvement plan.

“We’ll choose health priorities in the spring of 2023. And so, these will be based off of all the data that we get. So, if we see mental health as a huge issue, then that would be one of our priorities,” Gade said.

The assessment is available for community members to take online, as well as in-person at various locations throughout the county, including:

  • Center for Worker Justice: 1556 S 1st Avenue #C, Iowa City, IA 52240
  • CommUnity Food Pantry at Pepperwood Plaza: 1045 Highway 6 East, Iowa City, IA 52240
  • Iowa City Free Medical Clinic: 2440 Towncrest Dr, Iowa City, IA 52240
  • North Liberty Library: 520 W Cherry St #9797, North Liberty, IA 52317 

The University of Iowa College of Public Health is assisting with the in-person assessments. Strike Force, a university organization made up of UI College of Public Health students, is currently helping patrons who take the assessment in-person.

Bonnie Rubin, the faculty advisor for Strike Force, said the group’s mission is to assist local public health organizations with different activities, events, and emergency situations. 

“So, what we do is make sure that all the organizations know that we have a resource of students who can help them accomplish whatever project or initiative they have that they just don’t have enough people on their staff or other volunteers to help them with,” she said.

Tricia Kitzmann, Strike Force program coordinator, said while there haven’t been any recent emergencies in Johnson County, it’s essential for Strike Force members to be ready for anything. 

“It’s also very important that the core function of the Strike Force is really to be that that urgent call when needed if a disaster or emergency happens and so whether we’re talking to a large mass foodborne outbreak or, you know, a flooding situation, we want to be able to go in and help the community within to respond to that emergency,” Kitzmann said. 

For Kitzmann, the students are what makes the program special.

“The students are great. They’re motivated, they’re excited, they’re professional. It’s wonderful watching them interact with community partners,” Kitzmann said. “It’s not just about going into governmental public health agencies but other organizations that support the public health mission.”