Health agencies partner to develop WNC Healthy Impact

Published 4:54 pm Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hospitals and health departments across WNC have partnered to develop WNC Healthy Impact, an innovative regional initiative designed to improve community health across a 16-county area. This partnership is one of only a few in North Carolina and the country taking a regional approach. The partnership is currently gathering data to understand community health status by county. This information will help determine high priority health issues through the community health assessment process.
Though hospitals and health departments in WNC have partnered for years on improving health, they are exploring new ways to improve efficiency, consistency and collaboration while meeting agency assessment and planning requirements. There is now an additional federal requirement that non-profit hospitals must demonstrate the allocation of community benefit dollars according to high priority community health needs. Hospital and health department leaders said they see this as an opportunity to work together even more closely than they have done in the past.
“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 Ken Shull, CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital.
In addition to pulling together existing health related data, WNC Healthy Impact will conduct a community health phone survey. A random sample of citizens in all 16 counties will be surveyed through July.
Updated health assessment findings will be available for communities by the end of the year. Hospitals and health departments said they invite and encourage community members to be involved in this effort.
“We encourage anyone receiving a call from a surveyor to participate,” said Mary Smith, health educator for Rutherford-Polk-McDowell District Health Department. “This telephone survey is an important component of our regional and local assessment process and we need to hear about the health concerns and priorities from our communities. This process, including the survey, will inform the work to improve the health of our communities in the months and years ahead.”
Hospitals and health departments will work together with communities to create plans to address and invest in the priorities identified through this process.
For more information on the community health assessment and planning process in Polk County, contact Mary Smith at 828-925-0140.
– article submitted
by Mary Smith

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