Techniques to Improve the Health Status
of Your Community
Tuesday, Aug. 9, 1-2: 30 p.m.
The success of a community's healthcare begins with a set of priorities and is likely to end with a successful partnership.
That will be the theme of a panel of public health experts who will offer direction for managing community healthcare in an American Hospital Association convention session.
"We don't just want people to develop programs, but identify the need," said Linda DeWolf, director of Community Health Improvement for VHA in Washington.
Ms. DeWolf will be joined on the panel by Nancy Rawding, executive director of the National Association of County Health Officials in Washington, and Kenneth Rethmeier, vice president of SunHealth Alliance in Charlotte, N.C.
The three experts will offer techniques for determining current health behaviors or a community's unique problems. They also will encourage development of strategies for implementing health assessments and methods for coordinating services to improve health status.
Typically, money is a problem in communities trying to start new projects, the panelists said. Sometimes new money comes in the form of a grant, but the program dies when the grant runs out, experts said.
Despite scarce financial resources, there are ways of finding solutions. The panel will suggest healthcare providers and community leaders get together and prioritize.
"In a lot of communities, people have been getting together and finding they, as communities, have a lot of the same problems. We all have too many problems, and we can't get to them," Ms. Rawding said.
A list of priorities should be the first order of business for improving a community's health status, she said.
By setting priorities, community leaders and healthcare providers can better find a common ground.
"It helps in knowing what the biggest problems are," Ms. Rawding said. "It helps local health officials figure out what problems are the greatest to the community now."
The collection of statistical and demographical data from the community is key to evaluating and understanding the people who live in it.
"Health status is probably a long-term factor," Mr. Rethmeier said. "In our lives, we seek short-term satisfaction. We need to develop indicators that measure in the short-term so we can give some more immediate positive feedback."
Mr. Rethmeier also will encourage healthcare providers and community leaders to develop indicators for better assessment using primary and secondary prevention.
With primary prevention, risk factors are reduced. Secondary prevention focuses on early detection and treatment prior to advanced levels of inpatient and specialized care, Mr. Rethmeier said.
"We are moving away from the disease-centered system to a population-based model," he said. "That's a transition that communities and providers need to make."
The panel will stress efforts to link the community and providers.
"Think about the major purchasers of healthcare," Mr. Rethmeier said. "They sit on our boards, use services and have a longer history in the community than even the providers."