Weighing the Needs of Our Community

CommunityHealth reform is bringing about many changes to our industry. One of these changes is a requirement that not-for-profit hospitals conduct a community health assessment every three years. Altru Health System has embraced this opportunity to reach out to our community about this very important topic—our health.

We started our journey last year by forming an Advisory Committee to help us with our efforts. This group has provided guidance and helped sift through the many data that were collected as we learned about the issues present in our community. We used a framework from the Association for Community Health Improvement to keep us on track.

Getting Started
One of the first things we did was to agree on the overall purpose for our assessment. We decided our purpose is to “improve the overall health of the community by focusing on factors that promote health and wellness (versus treating disease).” We also agreed that our “community” for our assessment is Grand Forks County and the city of East Grand Forks.

We conducted focus groups of community members and learned firsthand thoughts about our community’s health. We used the University of North Dakota’s Seven Dimensions of Wellness to frame our discussion, so we could learn how the community feels about health on several levels. We also reviewed data from many sources, such as Altru’s Cancer Registry, the State Department of Health and school surveys.

Making Lists
To help us prioritize the many issues identified, the Advisory Committee developed a list of criteria:

» The burden, scope, severity or urgency of the health need
» The estimated feasibility  and effectiveness of possible interventions
» The health disparities associated with the need
» The importance the community places on addressing the need
» The community resources already allocated to addressing the need
» The connection to the purpose of the assessment

Using this list, we agreed the top five priority areas for improvement should be:

  1. Obesity rate
  2. Access to mental health services
  3. Binge drinking/excessive drinking
  4. Impact of poverty on health
  5. Financial barriers to health care access

Rolling Up Our Sleeves
Now, the work begins. The Advisory Committee has agreed to roll-up their sleeves and work through the next phase of our assessment. This means looking at what resources exist in our community to address these issues. We are also looking for ideas that have worked in other communities. Then, we will develop an action plan. Plans will be in place by the end of the year.

The Campus Community Committee on High Risk Alcohol Use has a head start on addressing the issues around binge and excessive drinking. Our committee agreed that we should support this group and not develop plans directly related to this issue for now.

Altru will take the lead on addressing the obesity issue. The Advisory Committee will help us identify resources and efforts that have worked, but we would like to hear from you as well. We know Altru already has services and resources in place to help patients struggling with obesity.

To learn more about the community health assessment, see the full report.

What more can we do? What should we be doing that we aren’t? Please let us know if you are willing to share your ideas or be involved.  

AudreyAudrey Lorenz, planning lead within Altru’s Corporate Development, has been with Altru for 25 years. Within her role, she focuses on business and strategic planning and brand management. During her free time, Audrey enjoys being with her family and their 10 dogs, running, decorating and doing yard work.

2 thoughts on “Weighing the Needs of Our Community

  1. As the focus groups’ report shows, mental health and addiction needs are tremendously underserved in our community; this is at least in part due to cultural empasis on self-reliance. We need to devote more resources to this issue – we can’t afford not to! This region is very much in need of an inpatient rehab facility for addiction. As it is now, patients just stay in the hospital for a few days and are released without appropriate long-term care. This causes these patients to relapse again, at which point they are often the target of disdain from healthcare providers.

  2. Hi, Andrew-
    Thank you for your input. We appreciate your interest in this very important topic.
    This issue was brought up and discussed at our community advisory committee meeting. While we agree this is a serious issue, unfortunately, it did not rise to the top of our priorities at this time. Please feel free to contact me if you want to talk more.
    Thanks again,

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