Lancaster’s government is partnering with local nonprofits to launch a study of city residents’ health and wellness.
“Healthy Lives, Healthy Lancaster” is the first assessment of its scope to concentrate solely on the city. It will employ focus groups, stakeholder interviews, community forums and a broad-based survey “to identify health needs and service gaps in our community,” Health Officer Isabel Wong said.
According to an FAQ on the project’s website, healthylancaster.org, the city is looking to develop “a comprehensive picture of Lancaster City’s health status and outcomes, focusing especially on understanding the adverse health and wellbeing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The pandemic demonstrated “a clear need for more health data,” Mayor Danene Sorace said in her Jan. 25 State of the City address. Healthy Lives, Healthy Lancaster, she said “will shine a new light on public health” and help the city and its partners determine where to allocate resources “for years to come.”
Influenced both by the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter social justice movement, policymakers locally and nationwide have begun paying increased attention to social determinants of health: factors such as housing, food, physical activity, access to resources and community connection. Over time, they have enormous influence on health outcomes. Indeed, according to researchers, social determinants play a much larger role in health than direct medical interventions.
The study will cost about $200,000, Wong said, which will be covered with supplemental Community Development Block Grant funding that Lancaster received through the CARES Act.
Close to 50 local organizations are partnering with the city on Healthy Lives, Healthy Lancaster. Nineteen of them are represented on an advisory committee that formed last fall. This week, it held a kickoff meeting to launch the public survey phase.
HLHL Advisory Committee
- Boys & Girls Club of Lancaster
- Bright Side Opportunities Center
- Community Action Partnership (CAP)
- Franklin & Marshall College
- Lancaster City Housing Authority
- Lancaster County Food Hub
- Lancaster Rec
- Lancaster EMS
- Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition
- NAACP Lancaster Branch
- Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health
- Planned Parenthood Keystone
- SACA Tec Centro
- School District of Lancaster
- Union Community Care
- United Way of Lancaster County
- YMCA of the Roses
- YWCA Lancaster
The survey will go out in a few weeks, Wong said. There will be plenty of opportunities to fill it out: It will be available through the partner organizations and at multiple public events.
Responses will be collected through June. After that, it will probably take two to three months to analyze the data. The city Health Bureau is hoping to present its findings in the fall, Wong said.
Jessica Oehme, a public health analyst, is representing Union Community Care on the advisory board.
“‘How can we as a community best provide support?’ is an important question driving this assessment,” she said. Its results, she said, will help organizations “focus efforts and resources on the neighborhoods that have gone unseen and unheard.”