Health: Survey Aims To Gauge The Cape's Healthcare Needs

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Health , Cape Cod Healthcare

Cape Cod Healthcare is asking Cape residents to complete a survey on health care and related issues. FILE PHOTO

Cape Cod Healthcare (CCHC) wants to know what you think about healthcare and related issues on Cape Cod.

To that end, the group has issued a Community Health Needs Assessment. It must be completed by May 13.

“It really gives you a lot of great data, specifically for Cape Cod,” Jennifer Cummings, CCHC’s associate director of development and community benefits, said in a telephone interview last week. “It really is our blueprint for the next three years.”

Every three years CCHC, working through its community benefits office, asks residents to fill out the survey. The current survey will cover the years 2023-2025. Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital, nonprofits that are monitored by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, are required to invest 3 to 5 percent of their net patient revenue back into the community. This translates to $25 to $30 million per year. The bulk of this goes to free care — patients without insurance will be treated without cost to them. Other money goes into an interpreters program — medical interpreters are available in the community and at the hospital. Another $1 million each year is given in grants to nonprofits. Each year the group releases a request for proposals that lets the community know what CCHC is focusing on.

“It has to tie back to a need found in the community health assessment,” Cummings says.

Other ways the funds are used are in health professions education, subsidized health services, research and community education and awareness.

The current survey is the first one being conducted post-pandemic. It will likely answer the question: What needs have been exacerbated by the pandemic? CCHC already knows that there is an increasing and pressing need for children’s mental health treatments — an issue that has been made worse by the pandemic, Cummings says. The lack of availability of housing is another issue that has gotten more critical.

CCHC primarily serves Barnstable County, which hosts a year-round population of nearly 215,000 residents. Yet the two hospitals and the healthcare system must meet the demands of the influx of seasonal residents and visitors which can equal an estimated seven million people in a given summer season.

To get the best snapshot of the Cape community, CCHC needs to hear from diverse voices. The survey can be taken in English, Portuguese, Spanish and — new this year — in Haitian Creole. The group is concerned with health equity, and to that end has community health advocates in the various communities, including among Haitian Creoles, that it leans on to get the word out about the survey.

Three years ago, in 2019, 2,011 people completed the survey. The group aims to “bust that goal this year,” Cummings says. Already people from each of the Cape’s towns have responded to the survey. The group also conducts focus group discussions. The one that brought together parents of children with mental health needs was the one “best attended” and “most passionate,” Cummings said. There have also been interviews with various community stakeholders.

The results of the 2022 survey are due out in the fall. A question on health issues asks, for example, how concerned respondents are on both personal and community levels about diseases ranging from asthma and arthritis to hypertension and stroke. A similar question about mental health issues lists conditions from anxiety or panic disorder to suicidal behaviors.

Three years ago, survey respondents ranked the cost and availability of housing as their number one issue in Barnstable County. Respondents were also concerned about homelessness. Twenty-nine percent also listed the availability of transportation as a high priority.

Employment was the number three social concern. With a seasonal economy, the summer’s high employment is followed by low employment in the winter. This can lead to financial insecurity and deters young professionals from staying in the area.

As far as behavioral health issues, depression, anxiety and substance use disorder were listed as primary concerns. Many noted that more treatment resources are needed as those that are available are always full.

Nearly three-out-of-four respondents listed “aging health concerns” as a top health concern in Barnstable County, where 27.8 percent of the population is aged 65 and older compared to the state as a whole at 15.1 percent. People were concerned about dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and social isolation as well as a lack of affordable housing and transportation for seniors.

And as for physical health conditions, 43.8 were concerned about chronic health conditions while 36.4 were concerned with cancer, which is higher here than in the rest of the state.

Sixty percent saw barriers to healthcare while 40 percent saw no barriers. Barriers included long waits, cost, and difficulty scheduling appointments as well as a need for transportation.

CCHC has more than 450 physicians, 5300 employees and 790 volunteers. As well as the two acute care hospitals, it has home care and hospice services, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility, an assisted living facility, an ambulatory surgery center and numerous primary and specialty care physician practices and other health programs.

To take the Community Health Needs Assessment, visit The survey is anonymous, and takes about 15 minutes to complete.