to address community health needs
Essentia Health Hospitals Work with Local Groups to Identify Health Needs and Improve Community Health
As the region’s premiere healthcare provider, Essentia is committed to caring for patients who seek services within its walls -- and to working outside its walls to improve the overall health and wellness of the communities it serves.
Just like patients, each community has unique needs. To determine what those needs are, the non-profit health system conducts a community needs assessment every three years in each community that is home to one of its 15 hospitals. Town hall meetings, focus groups, and surveys are among the ways Essentia gathers information on what is important to people.
“We look at what needs are identified in each community, then come up with a strategic plan to address those needs,” says Kayla Keigley, Essentia Health’s program manager of Community Health. “It’s a community-driven process focused on collaboration between public health data, local surveys, and community conversations.”
According to Keigley, the key to gathering accurate data is to get input from a wide range of community members, particularly those who are medically underserved and those in minority communities. Often, common themes emerge through the discussions – issues like mental health and obesity.
“We can hone in on a region and determine where we can have the biggest impact,” she says. “Then we can focus our attention and direct our collective energies into change that will help our patients right where they live and work.”
Clearwater Valley Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital assessments both revealed access to care as the top priority, followed by obesity and other factors that lead to chronic disease and mental health.
“These community needs assessments have been so informative for us. They have allowed us to have important conversations with our community members and partners and craft programs to serve them better,” says Hospital President Lenne Bonner. “A program we are very proud of, which has helped so many of our community members, is our Diabetes Prevention Program, which would possibly not have been discovered had it not been for the process of the community health needs assessment. It is a process that produces quality work by quality people to produce high quality outcomes. We are very thankful for our partners.”
Pam McBride, who serves as chief grants officer at Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics in Orofino, and St. Mary’s Hospital and Clinics in Cottonwood, says over the years, the hospitals have worked hard to develop relationships with community partners.
“We’ve recognized for a long time that important parts of health and wellness take place outside the walls of our facilities,” McBride says. “Community partners play a vital role because we work in a rural environment with limited resources. The lack of resources encourages more people to come to the table and think about collaborating. We still have a long way to go. We’re learning a lot from our partners, like public health and social services. And we’ve learned a lot from others at Essentia that are doing the same kinds of work.”
Strategies on how to best address community health needs will be compiled into an implementation plan, which are due to the Internal Revenue Service by November 15.
Community Health Needs Assessments are posted publicly online at www.EssentiaHealth.org.