Community Health Improvement and Health Priorities
Community Building as Health ImprovementHealth starts outside the walls of the hospital. There are many factors that influence an individual’s health. Genes and biology account for 10% and clinical care for another 10%, which affect a small portion of an individual’s total health. Socio-economic factors such as education, income and employment account for an estimated 40% of a person’s health, while health behaviors such as tobacco use, diet, and exercise affect 30% of an individual’s overall health. Even physical environment such as safe and affordable housing and complete streets for walking and biking affect 10%. So improving the health of a community means working outside the hospital where people live, work, learn and play. Because of this, our associates collaborate with our communities to develop strong community coalitions that assess community health needs, and address the full range of factors influencing health. Many of these factors are best addressed through policy, systems, and environmental changes (PSE) that make it easier for people to make healthy choices, rather than simply educating people about those healthy choices. Examples are found in this report of PSE strategies that are helping to make communities healthier, not by establishing another program, but by advocating for policies, changes in systems, and changes in the physical environment that will influence healthy behaviors to ensure improved health outcomes.
Community Health Needs Assessments and Implementation Strategies
True community benefit responds to the particular needs and challenges of the community, building on its unique strengths and assets. The Saint Thomas Health Community Health & Benefit Committee works with leadership and associates at each ministry to develop and participate in community forums. A key part of this work is conducting a formal community health needs assessment at least every three years, gathering information from a variety of sources that can include surveys, community leader interviews, community listening sessions, and analysis of secondary data to capture a snapshot of community assets and challenges. Results are presented to the community, and based on the data, priority health needs are established. In addition, each hospital reviews its health needs assessment and based on priorities established in the assessment as well as on the hospital’s mission, resources and business plan, develops an Implementation Strategy/Community Benefit Plan. These plans identify some of the specific activities that the hospitals will target to address community health needs. The Plan is regularly reviewed and outcomes are reported to the community.