Hospitals, health departments analyze community health status

Published 2:45pm Monday, October 14, 2013

Everything you ever wanted to know about the health and wellness of Polk County can be found at

The most recent Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) along with St. Luke’s Hospital’s plan to address the health needs of the county are now accessible on the hospital’s website.

A Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) will serve as a road map to guide hospital outreach efforts and collaboration with other community services to address top health concerns for Polk County.

The CHIP combines public data with community input to ensure St. Luke’s and other service providers work together to address top health concerns. In summary, the CHIP identifies actions to 1) reduce chronic disease (Diabetes) through healthy living, physical activity and nutrition; and 2) reduce tobacco use and substance abuse.

The CHNA and CHIP reports are the culmination of a yearlong process to gather data to understand a community’s health status by county.

Hospitals and health departments across western North Carolina have partnered to develop WNC Healthy Impact, an innovative regional initiative designed to improve community health across a 16-county area.

In addition to compiling existing health-related data, WNC Healthy Impact contracted with a third party vendor, Professional Research Corp (PRC), to conduct a phone survey to a random sample in all 16 counties.

“Identifying the community’s perception of their health and issues impacting health is valuable for each hospital and health department in their planning activities. We want to avoid preventable medical conditions and focus on healthy living for our community,” said St. Luke’s Hospital CEO Ken Shull.

Community input is a necessary and integral aspect of federally required community health assessments, according to Shull.

“We began this process a year ago to determine how we can best work together towards the same goal,” Shull said.

This past January, St. Luke’s Hospital, Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health District and Polk Fit, Fresh, Friendly (PF3) partnered to host a health forum when other community members and partners were invited to be involved in the solution.

After a presentation and review of Polk County’s most recent health data, attendees helped to set priorities to address as a community.

The community health improvement plan allows hospitals to meet federal requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Internal Revenue Service while encouraging collaboration among health providers to align investments that will improve the health of each community as required.

An assessment and resulting CHIP will be updated every three years.

St. Luke’s reports are posted on the hospital’s website and printed copies of these reports are also available at the welcome desk in the hospital’s front lobby and Outpatient/Emergency Registration area.

A similar plan to improve the health of Polk County is also available on the health district’s website at

“The next step is to use the CHIP as a guide in working together, with the health department, PF3 wellness group and other providers to improve the health and quality of life for residents in Polk County,” Shull said.

St. Luke’s Hospital is a not-for-profit community hospital dedicated to providing exceptional care, close to home.

– article submitted by Kathy Woodham

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