Understanding the way Fairfax County changes and grows is key to planning for our community’s future. The 2019 Health and Human Services Needs Assessment provides local leaders with data that can shape the way we approach challenges and improve outcomes.
Much of the data collected remains consistent from when the first needs assessment was published in 2016; yet other trends indicate changes that warrant attention. While the assessment is not designed to offer solutions, the report provides detailed information about trends and areas for improvement to better impact our residents. This allows us to monitor the health and wellness of our community while making proactive decisions for the future.
Read on to see highlights or read the full 2019 HHS Needs Assessment.
The 2019 Needs Assessment was specifically designed to highlight the smaller number of needs that have significant systemwide impact. Three areas emerged that depict the pervasive challenges and needs across the community: economic inequities, transportation inequities and health inequities.
Perhaps the easiest way to show the impact of these inequities is to compare a family that earns a median household income compared to a family with a low-household income (considered to be 50-80% of the median income).
Tisha Deeghan, deputy county executive for health and human services, explains that these inequities provide an uneven “opportunity landscape” for residents, and it is the county’s goal to help limit these inequities across our diverse populations.
“While we invest considerable resources (money, time and effort) to ensure that Fairfax County is a great place to live, learn, work and play, disparities in outcomes persist and access to opportunity varies depending on who you are and where you live in the county,” points out Deeghan. “We must foster a concentrated approach to the development of Communities of Opportunity. Neighborhoods often determine access to critical opportunities needed to excel in our society, such as stable housing, high-performing schools, sustainable employment, safety and health care.”
Data shows that fentanyl and heroin overdose rates are rising in Fairfax County. In 2017, there were 114 opioid-related deaths reported and while this count appears to be down in 2018, the proportion of overall deaths that include fentanyl is increasing.
This data shows that treatment strategies are needed as the opioid epidemic evolves within our community.
The 2019 Needs Assessment also noted some concerning trends among county teens.
- New questions were added to the 2018 Fairfax County Youth Survey, and more than one-fourth of students reported vaping at least once in their lifetime.
- Responses from 8th, 10th and 12th graders have shown a continued increase in students who have seriously considered attempting suicide.
These findings suggest that the county needs to continue its work on educating youth about physical and mental health.
Fairfax County remains diverse with 182 languages or dialects spoken in homes of elementary students. While the percent of population who speak English less than well has been consistent since 2016, the rate in Fairfax County remains over twice as high as the rest of Virginia, and overall higher than the U.S.
A significant contributor to income disparity in Fairfax County is limited English proficiency — those individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, speak, write or understand English. This shows us that providing quality English language learning opportunities is essential to promote the social mobility of individuals, which in turn benefits the overall economic success for all residents.
The 2019 Needs Assessment is one of many tools that will be used to inform the implementation of the countywide strategic plan and will help create a shared agenda to influence and drive change.