|This year, some of the state’s leading medical centers joined forces to conduct a comprehensive Community Health Assessment (CHA) in Raleigh and the surrounding urban and rural areas of Wake County.
A CHA is conducted every three to four years to identify the health status, concerns, and resources of a community as part of a county-wide strategic health planning process. The new Affordable Care Act requires all not-for-profit hospitals to assess the health needs of the community they serve and to create an implementation strategy to demonstrating that they are meeting the community’s needs. Additionally, CHAs are required as part of North Carolina and national local public health agency accreditation processes.
To avoid multiple community CHAs and the duplication of planning efforts, Wake County Human Services established a partnership with three local hospitals (WakeMed Health and Hospitals, Duke Raleigh, and Rex Healthcare), Wake Health Services, United Way of the Greater Triangle, Wake County Medical Society, and Urban Ministries to complete a joint CHA. Additionally, more than 60 non-profit, government, faith-based, education, media, and business organizations participated in the process.
“We know that with all of us working together, we can create a healthier community while having a better idea of where we need to focus our resources over the next few years,” said Sue Lynn Ledford, health director for Wake County. “Wake can be a model for other health departments, hospitals, and community organizations wishing to do this kind of collaboration.”
Through a competitive bidding process, the North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH) received a contract to coordinate data collection and analysis, develop community prioritization methods, and create the final CHA report document. NCIPH has a long history of assisting with community health assessments, participating in assessments of 39 out of 100 counties. In addition, since 2009, NCIPH has participated in 11 community health assessments in multiple NC counties using a widely validated cluster sampling methodology to conduct primary data collection.
“This project had an incredibly fast turnaround of six months,” said Anna Schenck, PhD, MSPH, director of NCIPH and associate dean for public health practice at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. “But we were pleased to work with an engaged team of funding partners and community stakeholders to ensure we met our goal.”
In May, community forums were held throughout Wake County where residents were invited to hear the main findings from the assessment and vote on the priority issues. The following priorities were identified by residents to be addressed over the next three years: poverty and unemployment, health care access and utilization, and mental health and substance use.