Assessing Health

Members of the Trigg County Hospital board of trustees learn about the 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment during their December meeting.

More people participated in a community survey conducted this past year by the University of Kentucky for Trigg County Hospital.

Melody Nall, engagement director at UK’s Community Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky, said 226 online and paper surveys offered as part of the hospital’s 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment were completed.

The assessment is conducted every three years as a mandate of the Affordable Health Care Act, and in 2019 only 185 surveys were completed for the hospital’s assessment.

“There was an increase,” Nall observed, speaking by teleconference during the hospital’s board of trustees meeting in December. “I can tell you (that) not every hospital’s had an increase this round, with all the challenges of pandemics and all the things going on.”

Among other things, the 2022 assessment revealed that the hospital’s steering committee identified obesity, mental health and substance use disorder as priority health needs in the county and said financial insecurity and instability are barriers to seeking healthcare.

The local survey participants noted that either they or their family members have struggled with high blood pressure, being overweight, obesity, arthritis and diabetes — health issues that Nall said were unsurprisingly at the top.

“You have an aging population in your county, and it’s not unusual to see these at the top,” she said, adding that mental health issues which were once at the bottom are also inching to the top.

Nall noted that a lot of the survey responses were related to having access to healthcare, whether that meant transportation or the availability of a certain type of healthcare.

She said there was conversation about behavioral healthcare for youth and children as well as chronic diseases and making healthy choices by being more physically active.

One thing that Nall pointed out from the data is that there is a real need to change the mindset of the community, to create a culture of health and what it means to be healthy.

She noted that people aren’t aware of the health resources available to them, and they don’t know when to look for them unless they have a diagnosis; one suggestion generated from the recent assessment is to bring back an interagency council which can recommend available resources and services to people.

The hospital plans to do just that, re-initiating a Trigg County Community Wellness Interagency Council that will help create community engagement for key health initiatives.

Nall noted that people contacted for the assessment, both for focus groups and the surveys, were thrilled to be heard, and Nall commended the local hospital for the people that they recruited to be on the community steering committee created for the process.

The committee members came from the Trigg County Health Department, the Housing Authority of Cadiz, Trigg County Public Schools, Genesis Express Inc., Trigg County Senior Center and others, and Nall noted that having input from across the community is crucial to having a very in-depth report.

“We really take (community engagement) seriously,” the initiative’s director said.

Nall said the 2022 assessment report is the fourth prepared by the initiative for the hospital.

Officials are now beginning efforts to implement strategies to improve the health of local citizens, following recommendations from the steering committee and the hospital board’s approval of the recent assessment report.

Hospital Compliance Officer Jodi Wilson said the next step will be ensuring that supervisors and key staff members are aware of the goals and understand the findings of the assessment.

Work will start on 2022 assessment goals once the staff is aware of them, she said.

The hospital has prioritized the health needs it will address in the community beginning this year through 2025 as follows: ranking chronic health conditions, expanding behavioral health services, improving transportation to medical care and services, addressing financial insecurities/instabilities for those seeking healthcare and promoting hospital services, including primary care and specialty services.

Hospital CEO John Sumner noted that the hospital is proud to serve Cadiz/Trigg County and surrounding communities, and he said it has worked hard in the last few years to expand its existing services, add specialty services and revise patient care, testing and vaccination in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Understanding our community and the people we serve for the purposes of providing the greatest care and services is of utmost importance to us,” Sumner wrote in the introduction to the 2022 assessment report.

He said information obtained in the assessment will be used to help the hospital develop goals to meet residents’ needs.

In the aftermath of the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment, the hospital has already met several of its goals, among them increasing the availability of its mental health services, addressing chronic health conditions like obesity and high blood pressure and recruiting and retaining primary care physicians.

The 2022 assessment will be posted on the hospital website at trigghospital.org.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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