A 2019 study assessing the social, economic and health needs of the Riley County community rolled out this week, coordinated by an area social service group.
The Flint Hills Wellness Coalition facilitated a comprehensive community needs assessment in 2015 and Chair Debbie Nuss says prior to that it had been 20 years since any similar studies were conducted. The survey covers issues ranging from quality of life as well as physical and mental health to housing, transportation and wage conditions.
Nuss says with the transient community in the Manhattan and Riley County area that turns over by more than 30 percent every 4 years, regular studies are essential.
“The needs of the community are likely to change because of that population shift,” says Nuss. “The information that it provides will be very beneficial to charting what happens in the community over the next 5 years.”
In addition to the survey, they identify around 30 individuals to be independently interviewed about the community’s strengths and weaknesses. This time is different, according to Nuss, as in 2015 they spoke with community leaders and elected officials but many of their responses ended up being similar. They plan to focus on the more average resident this year.
“We’re hoping by talking with 3 people who live and work and just go about their daily lives that we might get some different insights and perspectives about the community.”
The FHWC keeps responses anonymous, but makes the overall data collected available to the community, government bodies in addition to public service and health agencies.
“If we can do it collaboratively and all get on kind of the same schedule, then we’re not over-surveying the community,” Nuss says. “People get tired of taking surveys — while our community is very responsive, if you survey them too often then the response rate drops off.”
They received approximately 1500 respondents in 2015 and if any population is under-represented in the study, Nuss says they reach out to community leaders and conduct interviews with a focus group made up of residents from that demographic.
“So last time we did that with 18 to 24 year olds, the Hispanic population and low-income individuals,” says Nuss. “So we’ll do that again this time based on what the final response rate looks like.”
Feedback on the survey questions in the 2015 edition was sought from community groups, but Nuss says the questions were kept as similar as possible in order to have more direct data comparisons between that and this year’s survey and identify where more resources may need to be directed.
The survey takes between 20 and 30 minutes to complete. It’s open through Friday, October 11, and can be found online. Hard copies can be printed and turned into the Riley County Seniors’ Service Center or Riley County Health Department.

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