PEORIA — Local health officials in the tri-county area are asking residents to help assess the overall health of their community.

Every three years the Partnership for a Healthy Community, a collaboration between health departments, hospitals, clinics, higher education, and social service agencies, conducts a health needs assessment. As part of the assessment, residents in the tri-county area can fill out an online survey to help identify the most important health issues impacting our area.

“The assessment takes about 10 to 15 minutes,” said Monica Hendrickson, administrator at Peoria City/County Health Department.

Survey questions address a variety of topics, ranging from diet and exercise, to mental health issues, to safety concerns. Though questions require people to provide answers on personal issues about their health and living conditions, the survey is anonymous. Access it at www.HealthyHOI.org. Paper copies of the survey are available at the Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford County Health Departments.

The survey is just part of the community health assessment which will help officials create a plan to improve community health. The results of the assessment will be presented to the public next summer, said Hendrickson.

“As we move towards completing our assessment, that’s when we want to get more community buy-in,” she said. Community input helps officials pinpoint the causes of problems. “We can give someone medication every day for a specific condition, then later learn their house has mold, which caused the condition. That person’s buy-in is going to help us pinpoint the cause of the problem.”

Central Illinois has a great healthcare system, but other factors also determine how healthy a community is, said Hendrickson. Crime and infrastructure issues also contribute to community health.

“We ask people if they go for walks, and if they don’t, why not? If your neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks, or there’s a lot of crime, you probably won’t do that. So instead of pushing for a campaign on walking, we might push to get sidewalks instead,” said Hendrickson.

Periodic community health assessments are required of hospitals every three years through the Affordable Care Act. Health departments are also required by the State of Illinois to do an assessment every five years. The tri-county area is the first area in the state where all the health entities have come together to do a group assessment to cover both requirements, said Hendrickson

“It’s a great approach,” she said. “It shows how our community does really well working together.”

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.