Building consensus regarding local health-related priorities and developing plans to address those priorities were the focus of a recent community initiative spearheaded by the Newton Medical Center and the Harvey County Health Department in collaboration with Health Ministries Clinic and Prairie View, Inc .
The partners invited community leaders representing all facets of the community to participate in the Harvey County Community Health Needs Assessment. Some 32 community leaders participated.
Over the course of three two-hour meetings held between October 23 and November 6, the group considered government statistics, analyzed input from an informal community survey and participated in group discussions before identifying the top health-related priorities for action plans going forward.
The top priorities to be addressed on behalf of Harvey County over the next 3-5 years included promoting health, wellness and chronic disease prevention; improve communication and collaboration between health care providers and within the community; and focusing on youth development.
The effort was in response to the 2010 federal Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act that mandated nonprofit hospital entities address local community health concerns in exchange for their favorable tax status. The hospital is required to periodically solicit broad community input into what those priorities should be and then publicly declare how it intends to help improve the local situation.
Simultaneously, national public health professionals have been encouraging local health departments to pursue accreditation, a process that would demonstrate an ability to respond to public health needs. Accreditation also requires a periodic assessment of community public health needs. Given the confluence of these two initiatives, leaders for the hospital and health department agreed to collaborate in the process.
The process was organized and facilitated by Dr. John Leatherman, professor of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University and university Extension specialist with K-State Research and Extension. “My office has supported strengthening rural community health systems since 2004. So, we have made it a priority to help as many communities as possible fulfill their requirements,” he said.
“Regardless of the requirements, we welcomed the opportunity to reach out to the community and build stronger local partnerships in addressing community health priorities,” said Steven Kelly, President and CEO of Newton Medical Center. “Our mission is to serve the health-related needs of Harvey County. The Medical Center Board will consider the input and develop specific responses,”
Lynnette Redington, Director of the Harvey County Health Department, expressed similar satisfaction with the outcome. “It was gratifying that everyone recognized the need to address chronic public health issues. We all recognize the problems are there. Improving the situation is the challenge,” she said.
How to accomplish that was a major emphasis of the program. The final session was dedicated to developing specific action plans to address the identified priorities. “Without a road map, even well-intended efforts can flounder,” Leatherman said. “We want to maximize the opportunity to see tangible improvements when they revisit these issues in a few years.”
Leatherman commended the local effort. “This is about local people taking control of their community and their destiny. These are their priorities and plans. They are all to be commended for their concern, involvement, and effort on behalf of Harvey County,” he said.
To that end, various work groups were formed with specific action items to pursue. Most of these efforts will require broad-based community involvement and both Kelly and Redington invited interested county residents to contact them with interest relating to any priority initiative.
Read the full Harvey County Community Health Needs Assessment report here. Any interested person can also go to Newton Medical Center or the Harvey County Health Department and request to see the printed report.
Additional information about the Harvey County Community Heath Needs Assessment and the final report are available at the Kansas Rural Health Works Website at www.krhw.net. Leatherman can be contacted at 785-532-4492 or email@example.com.