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Community groups begin effort to evaluate health needs

Augusta Health, with collaboration from other local health and human services providers, has begun a comprehensive study of the health of the people of Augusta County, identifying public health needs, goals, objectives and priorities.

The hospital hosted a Community Health Forum meeting on Friday, June 29 to launch the comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment.  This assessment will provide the foundation for improving and promoting the health of each community member.

A Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) is a systematic collection, assembly, analysis, and dissemination of information about the health of the community. Its role is to identify factors that affect the health of a population and determine the availability of resources with the community to adequately address those factors.

Although a CHNA is required for not-for-profit hospitals as part of health care reform legislation, Augusta Health has voluntarily completed similar assessments in the past as a way to guide programs and services.  This is the third assessment completed by Augusta Health; it is expected to be finished by the end of September.  A report of the results will be presented to the community.

“With information from this important survey, we will have a more complete understanding of the health needs of this community to help focus our resources in the most effective ways,” said Kathleen Heatwole, Vice President of Planning at Augusta Health.

Augusta Health’s CHNA will use both existing and new data to assess local health needs and recommend possible improvement methods. Some the data has already been collected through previous local, state and federal public health organizations data sources. A firm retained by Augusta Health, Stratasan and Catalyst Healthcare Research will collect, quantify, and interpret the data.  After that, a community survey will be conducted to seek input from numerous local residents throughout this process.

Local residents will be asked what they think about various aspects of their local healthcare delivery system and what changes they would like to see. That insight, along with the data, will be used to set priorities for local public health.  After the survey is complete, a community health summit will be scheduled.

“The survey will be looking at what the concerns are as seen through the eyes of the residents of our area,” said Linda Gail Johnson, Director Community Wellness.

The information and data is being gathered by Stratasan and Catalyst Healthcare Research to ensure confidentiality and anonymity of the participants. The results will be shared back with the community to help them develop and refine programs and services to ensure they target the community’s true healthcare needs.

“Our community assessment is not meant to produce a document that gets shoved onto a shelf to gather dust,” said Heatwole. “It is meant to create the foundation of an action plan to help us truly improve the lives of the people in our community.”

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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Augusta Free Press