Grad student assists with county health assessment

Katie-BittingerPULLMAN, Wash. – Graduate student Katie Bittinger assisted with a recently completed needs assessment that shows Whitman County residents lack affordable dental care and access to preventive medical care.

“Without her expertise and efforts, this final report of results would not have been possible,” said Jeff Guyett, director of the Pullman Community Action Center. Bittinger studies sociology at Washington State University.

The WSU Social and Economic Sciences Research Center designed, distributed and collected data from the survey.

Sponsored by Palouse area health agencies, the survey was completed in the spring by more than 1,000 Whitman County residents. It had 266 questions about quality of life, economic development, employment, health, housing, food security and use of social services.

Based on the findings, five key areas for improvement were identified:
1.Extreme need for affordable dental care
2.Transportation to services
3.Access to nutritious food
4.Access to preventive care and mental health services
5.Access to social services for low-income non-Pullman residents
6.“The assessment is a great first step in identifying the highest needs in Whitman County and will help prioritize how to address these gaps in services,” Guyett said.

Report highlights include:
◾34 percent of Pullman residents and 36 percent of non-Pullman residents said they were unable to access preventive care (primary care) within the past year.
◾The most common health conditions ranked in households by resident and income are obesity, asthma, and diabetes. Low income, non-Pullman residents ranked their most common health conditions as dental disease, physical disability, and mental health.
◾Ten percent of low income Pullman and 19 percent of low-income non-Pullman residents reported going hungry in the last year because they were not able to get enough food.
◾30 percent of low-income non-Pullman residents expressed difficulty finding transportation to access services.
◾Services that were difficult to access were cited as affordable dental care across Whitman County, mental health, help with heating/utility bills, and access to nutritious food.

The complete report can be found at

A Rural Health Network Development Planning grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration helped fund the survey.