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Southern Idaho Health Care Providers Study Community Needs

Health-care providers use data to identify, address specific community needs

By Laura Hill on September 17, 2018

Twin Falls, ID
Twin Falls / Courtesy of Cassia Regional Medical Center

More than just places where people come for medical care, local hospitals are bringing health care and preventative medicine into their communities, exploring innovative solutions to persistent widespread problems.

Prompted by an Affordable Care Act provision that all not-for-profit hospitals conduct periodic Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA), providers have been prioritizing problems and working to find solutions.

Assessing Needs

St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center found in its 2016 assessment that the area’s leading health challenges were obesity/diabetes, suicide prevention/mental health and access to affordable health care. Some aspects of these issues, of course, had been addressed through the hospital’s many community initiatives, including $284,000 in donations to health nonprofits and organizations, working with programs such as the Boys and Girls Clubs and Cooking Matters, screenings and community programming. 

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But St. Luke’s dove deeper in response to its CHNA, launching the Healthy Conditions Assessment to look into particular census tracts that tend to see more sick people.

“We wanted to find out, for example, how people facing diabetes and obesity are dealing with it and what they are going through,†says Kyli Gough, community health manager for St. Luke’s Magic Valley and Jerome. “We looked at those areas where people are spending high amounts of income on housing, who have one or no vehicles in the home, low education levels, etc. A lot of things are coming out on a deeper level that really affect people’s ability to access care, like poor housing and unreliable transportation. It’s fascinating.”

As a result of the Healthy Conditions Assessment, which launched in June 2018, St. Luke’s is actively working with local transportation providers, faith-based groups and not-for-profits and other stakeholders to identify and prioritize plans for action.

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Intermountain Cassia Regional Hospital is deeply involved with meeting the health needs of its community. 

“Community input meetings held in 2015 (to help drive our initiatives for community health for the next three years) included people representing: local government, schools, senior services, safety net clinics, minority populations, uninsured and low-income people, social service providers, local businesses, advocates, health-care providers, and the Idaho South Central Public Health District,†says Stephanie Curtis, marketing and communications manager, Cassia Regional Hospital.

The meetings identified high-priority concerns: poor eating habits and obesity; lack of motivation for physical activity; the need for culturally sensitive education about healthy food choices; the prevalence of depression and anxiety; the cost, lack of access and stigma of treating mental illness; and suicide prevention.

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In the ensuing few years, Cassia Regional has been involved in a long list of heath initiatives, among them free Youth Mental Health First Aid programs; free screenings for prediabetes, depression and high blood pressure; a free “intervention pre-diabetes†class; Living Well with Chronic Conditions and Living Well with Chronic Pain classes; and started the Behavioral Health Network. 

The hospital also conducted large-scale public messaging about opioid misuse and held an opioid summit. 

“Intermountain Cassia Regional Hospital is devoted to the community, helping out whenever possible to ensure our neighbors, families and friends get the help they need to maintain or regain their health,†Curtis says.

Smaller Hospital Reach Out

Minidoka Memorial Hospital in Rupert, a community-owned hospital, offers a range of services to its community, from primary medical and surgical care to occupational therapy, acute nursing care, home health and hospice care. It also offers classes in CPR-First Aid, stress management, smoking cessation, and health risk assessments and emergency medical response. 

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North Canyon Medical Center, a 15-bed critical access hospital, serves the largely rural population of Gooding and several nearby counties. It too conducted a CHNA in 2016, a lengthy and thorough process that connected an array of stakeholders in the community’s health, including nonprofits, health-care providers, faith-based groups, social service organizations, educators, etc.

The report resulted in the following priorities: coordination of services, urgent care extended hours, behavioral health issues, sliding fee/free clinics, and drug and alcohol use among teens and other groups. A well-planned array of services and programs has since been implemented to address these concerns.

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