MHHS works with communities, local organizations to assess area health needs

Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 2:57 pm

 As a member organization of Covenant Health, Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System’s mission is to improve the quality of life for East Tennesseans through better health. One important way to carry out that mission is to collaborate with communities to determine local health needs and to work with local organizations to develop and implement plans for addressing those needs.

 In addition, recent health care legislation requires that MHHS and other not-for-profit hospitals and health systems conduct community needs assessments every three years. While the process is not explicitly scripted, hospitals are encouraged to collaborate with key community stakeholders such as health departments, universities, and organizations such as United Way and local Chambers of Commerce.

 At the same time that MHHS and Covenant Health began looking at ways to gather community health information effectively, local health departments and other organizations in the region were beginning needs assessments in counties throughout East Tennessee.

 The Hamblen County Health Department recently initiated a needs assessment process, and an organization called PlanET began a five-county process to look at the needs of Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon and Union counties.

 “It turns out to be a great opportunity for the hospitals of Covenant Health to partner with health departments in the counties where our hospitals are located, and to collaborate on the information-gathering and analysis process,” said Gary Young, director of Covenant’s Center for Community Health. He explained that representatives of Covenant Health hospitals already have been “at the table” and participating in local health assessment efforts.

 In Anderson, Hamblen, Sevier, Loudon, and Roane counties, Covenant Health is beginning to identify and work with assessment partners. The health departments have been collecting and reviewing demographic, socio-economic, and health statistics for their specific counties. Covenant Health will enhance the data collection efforts with qualitative research, using a combination of online and hard-copy surveys and “key informant” interviews of community leaders.

 “The combination of quantitative and qualitative information will enhance the overall effort,” Young said. “The goal is to gather health statistics and to overlay those numbers with citizen input. We’re including interviews with community leaders who, because of their tenure, knowledge, unique experiences or job responsibilities, can give us particular insight into local health issues.” Examples might be safety personnel, health care providers at local free or lowcost clinics, and representatives from faith-based communities, he explained.

 “Once data are collected, compiled and analyzed, we will convene a stakeholder group in each county to see what issues emerge.”

 MHHS will develop an action plan based on the findings and the hospital’s ability to address some of the needs identified through the data collection process. The hospital anticipates having its plan developed by early spring 2013, and submitting the plan in compliance with health care law.

 MHHS will be surveying Hamblen County citizens through the end of this year. The survey takes about five minutes to complete and is available online on the hospital’s website, www. or at http://www.

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