Access to care still a top health concern for community

WOODSTOCK – Access to primary and preventative care is the top concern that Valley Health’s 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment identified in a recent survey.

Mary Zufall, community health coordinator for Valley Health, presented the findings of the assessment to health care professionals and community members at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

The assessment is conducted every three years, she said, as required by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for each tax-exempt hospital.  An implementation strategy to meet the community health needs identified through the assessment must be adopted.

The assessment identifies priority health status and access issues for particular geographic areas and populations by focusing on who in the community is most vulnerable in terms of health status and access to care, what the unique needs for the population are, where the people live in the community and why these problems are present.

Results provided at the meeting included results for Valley Health’s southern region, including Shenandoah, Warren, Page and Rappahannock counties.

This year’s results showed that the identified health needs, in order, are:

1. Access to primary and preventative care.
2. Mental and behavioral health.
3. Substance abuse and tobacco smoking.
4. Physical activity, nutrition and obesity-related chronic diseases.
5. Low income/financial stability.
6. Maternal and child health.

The list was similar to the results of the 2013 assessment, Zufall said, except the fifth need in 2013 was oral health and dental care, and the sixth need was financial hardship and basic needs insecurity.

“There is a lack of mental health providers in the area,” she said.

Primary data collection and analysis and secondary data analysis were used to collect results, she said. Primary sources were 1,900 community surveys – an 85-percent increase over the 2013 assessment’s 1,007 community surveys; 17 group key informant interviews; four community response sessions and Valley Health System discharge and emergency department data. Secondary data sources were demographic, social and economic indicators.

The community survey was conducted between Jan. 11 and March 19 and was available at kiosks, on the Valley Health website and on social media, she said. It was also available in both English and Spanish.

Questions were:

• What are the three most important health problems in your community?
• How would you rate your own personal health?
• When do you see a medical doctor or nurse?
• How do you pay for your health care?

Results of the community survey showed that the most important factors for a healthy community included access to health care, good jobs and a stable economy, low crime and safe neighborhoods, good schools, a good place to raise children and healthy behaviors and lifestyles.

She added that the survey also showed how people ranked behaviors with the greatest impact on overall community health that listed drug abuse, alcohol abuse, obesity, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, tobacco use and unsafe sex as leading behaviors.

In Shenandoah County, there were 390 respondents and Warren County had 85 respondents.

In the community interviews, the priority health needs identified, she said, include access to primary and preventative care, domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health, lack of affordable housing, lack of transportation and low income/financial stability.

She said the next step in the process is to create the implementation strategies based on the assessment results.

Implementation strategies, she added, will include identifying significant health needs that each hospital intends and does not intend to address, addressing the reasons why a hospital will not address a specific need, developing a plan for how the hospital plans to address each health need it intends to address including actions, programs and resources, planning collaborations and anticipating the impact of the hospital’s actions.

Detailed Community Health Needs Assessment results for each hospital can be found on Valley Health’s website at http://tiny.cc/zg6xgy.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com.