Gone are the days when an annual health fair sufficed as community engagement. With health reform came requirements for nonprofit hospitals to assess their community’s health needs and address priority issues. Community health needs assessments (CHNAs) and other catalysts have hospitals looking beyond their walls to align efforts with community stakeholders. Jim Kendrick, CHC President and CEO, shares how these outreach efforts help hospitals become health promoters, not just healthcare providers.
Making a Difference in Community Health
Through Partnerships, Hospitals Extend Care Well Beyond Their Walls
JK: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires nonprofit hospitals to conduct a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) once every three years – and develop an implementation plan to meet community health needs. Finalized in 2014, CHNA requirements are very specific and state that the hospital must post the full CHNA report prominently on its website with homepage access in order to be in compliance.
Whether or not a hospital has 501(c)(3) status – which triggers the need to complete a CHNA – this assessment of the existing local health needs is a best practice.
JK: Hospitals are not only addressing specific health problems but also helping to meet fundamental, nonclinical needs of community members. Traditional outreach efforts, such as health fairs, provide some degree of access to healthcare but don’t address socioeconomic determinants of health. Rural hospital leaders know that rural residents are more likely to experience some of the determinants that negatively affect health, such as substance abuse. For nonprofit hospitals, Affordable Care Act requirements led hospitals to develop programs and services that promote health and wellbeing in their communities.
JK: Many hospitals have insufficient resources for public health efforts alone, so working with other organizations is necessary. To address the underlying community health issues, hospitals team up with partners such as schools, the public health department, local businesses and nonprofits. For example, Great Plains Health in North Platte, Nebraska, recognized that safe, affordable housing is a bedrock of good health, so the hospital is working with the local health department and other community partners to address chronic respiratory problems and other issues caused by substandard housing. In Wichita Falls, Texas, United Regional Health Care System is addressing hunger and barriers to health access by partnering with a mobile food pantry that delivers fresh fruits and vegetables. A nurse rides along to provide blood pressure and diabetes screenings.
JK: As one of the largest area employers, community hospitals are well positioned to establish relationships with other community stakeholders. Their CEOs are visible in the community, so partnerships may evolve out of a chat at the high school football game or at a Rotary Club meeting.
JK: They get involved in community organizations, and connections made there tend to lead to other introductions and connections, developing synergies that benefit the hospital and community. They also serve on boards of professional associations that advocate for local health services and may take part in congressional lobbying efforts on behalf of hospitals. Closer to home, hospital leaders advocate for community improvements, such as infrastructure and green space to encourage walking and recreation.
JK: Addressing health issues and determinants in the community is the right thing to do — for both the hospital and the community. Conversely, disengagement with public health leads to preventable hospitalizations. To provide mission-focused care, it’s best to include outreach efforts beyond the hospital’s walls.
To learn more about Community Health, please visit communityhospitalcorp.com.