(Posted June 13, 2001)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- A Juniata College statistical survey requested by the Huntingdon County Head Start Health Services Advisory Committee and PRIDE in Huntingdon County found that the county is in need of additional dental service providers in the area for children whose parents are uninsured or cannot pay for dental care -- so fewer families will have to travel out of county to get adequate dental care.

The study was completed by a team of five Juniata College students in the Social Science Research Methods class taught by Duane Stroman, professor of sociology. Stroman uses the class to work extensively with local agencies in need of outcome studies, needs assessments or consumer surveys.
"We do four to six projects each year," says Stroman, who teaches the course every spring. "The students learn how to do research and they learn to work together, which often is the most difficult part of any project."
The group surveyed parents from a stratified random sample of 30 out of 140 elementary school classes of students within Huntingdon County's four school districts. The team also surveyed the parents of children participating in Head Start and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition programs and at a local day care center. The team sent detailed questionnaires to 30 separate classes within the four districts.

Among the findings:

--About 12 percent of those surveyed did not have a regular dentist and nearly 19 percent lacked health care insurance.

--Nearly 28 percent of those surveyed went out of Huntingdon County for health care. "We have to be careful in interpreting that data because some of these families may live on the boundaries of Huntingdon County and may be closer to other service areas," Stroman explains.

--About 27 percent of respondents said they drove less than 5 miles to get dental care, while almost 20 percent drove 5 to 10 miles and 28 percent drove 11 to 25 miles. Almost 24 percent said they drove more than 25 miles for dental care.

The majority of children surveyed received regular dental care, but anecdotal evidence from local dentists suggested that families may have considerable trouble finding dentists who are accepting new patients, or locating a dentist who will accept Medical Access Cards.

Stroman says Head Start and PRIDE will use the study to help a volunteer committee obtain funds through the county's "Healthy Communities" program, The funds could be used to recruit more dentists into the area, provide a location for a new practice and assist children who are unable to get adequate dental care. "The survey was designed to determine how severe the dental service problem was and provide information that can be used to resolve that problem," he says.

Stroman says most of the assignments for the research class focus on Huntingdon area social service agencies. Here is a synopsis of the other projects completed for the class:

--A consumer satisfaction survey of service and support groups for Huntingdon House, a shelter for abused women.

--A survey of Huntingdon County residents to discover how a small community without a police department feels about safety, response times from other police departments and other factors. Huntingdon County Sheriff David Harker is the client.

--A consumer satisfaction survey to gauge how probation offices feel about the services offered at Youth Forest Camp No. 3, a camp for juvenile offenders.

--A survey of agencies providing services to the mentally retarded in Huntingdon, Mifflin, Blair and Juniata counties to determine the training needs for staff serving agency clients, and the availability of trainers.

--A survey of therapists in Huntingdon County to determine if there is a need for more family therapists in the county. This survey also found that many therapists in the county would attend a course in family therapy.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.