Jefferson County, Colo. — There’s a piece of health that affects all people, medicine can’t heal and one person alone can’t solve. It’s the health of our communities, and it affects our lives from the moment we’re born to our last breath.
Health departments and not-for-profit hospitals are both required to do assessments to gauge the health of the communities they serve. Though these efforts usually overlap one another in data gathered, resources used and outcomes explored, they are typically done separately by each organization. But when it comes to making a community healthier, innovation is the name of the game.
That’s why Jefferson County Public Health, SCL Health Lutheran Medical Center and St. Anthony Hospital — Centura Health partnered together to do the first joint Community Health Needs Assessment, or CHNA, of its kind in Colorado. Other organizations have partnered together to do similar projects, but the joint CHNA in Jefferson County is unique because it brings public health (which focuses on disease prevention) and health care (which focuses on treatment) together with the common goal of helping all people achieve the best health possible.
“We all realized the opportunity that we’re stronger together, and that we’re able to understand the community’s needs through even stronger community input when we’re doing it together,” said Monica Buhlig, Group Director of Community Health at St. Anthony Hospital — Centura Health.
With the help of many community members, partners and staff, the three organizations assessed the current state of health in the county and gathered information on gaps and opportunities for improvement. The assessment contains information on a broad range of factors that impact health as well as existing assets and resources to address these health issues.
“It’s been an odyssey, in a sense, because we’re exploring new territory and we don’t know what’s around each corner,” said Chuck Ault, Regional Director of Community Health Improvement at SCL Health Lutheran Medical Center. “We’ve embraced that. I think the uncertainty that’s kind of inherent in this process is something we’ve all sort of been enlivened by.”
The results of the CHNA
Overall, Jefferson County is a healthy community and we are doing well in many areas — often performing better than the state of Colorado and the U.S. But, we still have a way to go. Even if areas rank as a strength for Jefferson County at large, some populations are disproportionately impacted and we must work to ensure all people have a chance at the best health possible.
Areas of strength identified are healthy sexual behaviors (including declining teen birth rates and lower rates of sexually-transmitted infections compared to other counties in Colorado), access to parks and recreation, safe food, healthy eating and breastfeeding and access to care (as it relates to provider availability and capacity).
There are also many opportunities for improvement in Jefferson County — areas in which health rates are worsening or Jefferson County isn’t performing as well as the state or country.
Important opportunities for improvement include food insecurity, access to mental health and substance use treatment, alcohol and substance use, lack of housing and tobacco and vaping.
Though these are areas we’ve identified as strengths and opportunities for improvement, there are a number of other areas in which Jefferson County Public Health will continue work to improve health, safety and wellness.
“We’ve emphasized the importance of partnership thus far in this process, and that’s not about to change now,” said Kelly Keenan, Epidemiology and Planning Program Manager at Jefferson County Public Health. Keenan oversees the CHNA and community health planning process. “The next steps will bring in community members and our partners to help us figure out how to best use the data in strategic ways that can make meaningful change in the community.”
The end result of numerous meetings with partners and Jefferson County residents will be what’s called a Community Health Improvement Plan, or CHIP. The CHIP will be a customized, responsive approach to the needs of the county. It will set goals and priorities for work at Jefferson County Public Health, SCL Lutheran Medical Center and St. Anthony Hospital — Centura Health.
Want to get involved?
Explore the full assessment at bit.ly/Jeffco-CHNA-2018.
About Jefferson County Public Health
Public health is what we as a society do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan through prevention, education and partnerships for all people. To learn more about JCPH, visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth.
About SCL Health Lutheran Medical Center
Lutheran Medical Center is a community-based, 338-bed acute-care hospital located in Wheat Ridge, CO. Local and national ratings organizations regularly recognize Lutheran for clinical excellence, patient safety and patient experience.
Lutheran’s premier services include a five-star birthing center, Heart and Neurovascular Center, robotic surgery, Primary Stroke Center, Comprehensive Cancer Center, Orthopedics, a Level III Trauma Center and emergency services including the first Senior Emergency Room in Colorado. Senior-focused services also include Senior Behavioral Health and a Senior Surgery Center. Lutheran operations include West Pines, Lutheran Hospice and Bridges Health and Wellness. Lutheran Medical Center received Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award in 2018, placing it among the top 1 percent in the nation for overall clinical excellence. To learn more, visit www.lutheranmedicalcenter.org.
Lutheran is owned by SCL Health, a faith-based, nonprofit health care organization dedicated to improving the health of the people and communities we serve, especially those who are poor and vulnerable. Founded by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1864, our $2.6 billion health network provides comprehensive, coordinated care through 10 hospitals, more than 100 physician clinics, and home health, hospice, mental health and safety-net services primarily in Colorado and Montana. We relentlessly focus on delivering safe, high-quality, effective care to every patient, every time, everywhere. In 2017, SCL Health invested $259.4 million in community benefit — 10 cents of every dollar we earn — to support health improvement in our communities. To learn more about SCL Health, visit www.sclhealth.org
About St. Anthony Hospital — Centura Health
St. Anthony Hospital is nationally recognized for its renowned programs in trauma, cardiovascular services, oncology, neurosciences and orthopedics. St. Anthony Hospital’s expert team of physicians, nurses and other caregivers provide unparalleled medical care for patients and access to the latest in medical technology.
St. Anthony Hospital is part of Centura Health, which connects individuals, families and neighborhoods across Colorado and western Kansas with more than 6,000 physicians and 21,000 of the best hearts and minds in health care. For more information on the St. Anthony Medical Campus, please visit www.stanthonyhosp.org or follow the hospital via Twitter @stahospital and facebook.com/stahospital.