Last updateSun, 30 Aug 2015 2pm

Local Issues

If you live in the Coachella Valley, you may receive a phone call sometime early next year from a nonprofit called HARC—Health Assessment and Research for Communities.

HARC’s new board president, Bruce Purdy, says it’s vital for you to take that call, and answer all of the survey questions that follow—even if the questioning is lengthy and a bit tedious.

“The data we’ll collect will ultimately support and improve the health and well-being of the residents of the Coachella Valley,” he said. “It will provide an objective picture of the health of citizens in this community, and help create programs and policies that will help improve health of a whole lot of residents.”

It’s HARC’s job to conduct this survey of residents every three years, and then compile and release the results.

So, why’s it so important to have this data?

“We believe that in the last five years, grants have provided roughly $12.8 million in support to local nonprofits that used HARC data to justify their requests,” Purdy said.

It’s Purdy’s experience with one of those nonprofits, the Desert AIDS Project, that led Purdy—a semi-retired development economist—to get involved with HARC. Purdy sits on the Desert AIDS Project’s board, and saw how helpful HARC’s data was to DAP.

“We’ve gotten so many grants because (we) have really good, analytical data (from HARC),” he said.

David Brinkman, the CEO of DAP, encouraged Purdy to join the HARC board, Purdy said. Dr. Glen Grayman, the chief population health officer and regional medical director of Borrego Health, had been the president of HARC’s board since it was founded in 2006, and oversaw the first three HARC surveys. When Grayman decided it was time to hand over the reins to someone else, Purdy was tasked with becoming that someone else. Purdy became the HARC board president in October.

The last HARC survey, conducted in 2013, showed the Coachella Valley’s collective health badly needed improvement. It showed a third of local adults between the ages of 18 and 64 didn’t have insurance. The data also showed high rates of hypertension, high cholesterol and binge-drinking, and that cancer rates and the number of children living in poverty were on the rise.

Of course, a lot has changed in the last three years. The economy has improved, and the Affordable Care Act has given more adults access to reasonably priced insurance plans. Purdy said he’s curious what the 2016 numbers will show.

“I’m really interested to see if the increase in people covered by Obamacare has helped, hurt or not changed at all the health and wellness of people in the valley,” he said.

Purdy said HARC is “inundated” with requests from nonprofits for various questions to be included in the survey. He said the 2016 survey will include deeper questions regarding two matters on different ends of the age spectrum: childhood obesity/early-onset diabetes; and the various health issues the valley’s older snowbird population is facing.

Purdy said the survey includes about 160 questions, and that he hopes to get more responses than the 2,000-plus received during the 2013 survey. Kent State University will again conduct the survey.

“We are very proud of and excited about the work we do,” Purdy said.

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