SPRINGFIELD – Mercy Health – Springfield has kicked off its 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), a survey taken every three years to identify the top health concerns in Clark and Champaign counties.
“It helps us set and establish priorities for the coming years,” explained Mercy Health – Springfield’s Community Health Director Carolyn Young. “It’s important to be in line with what is happening in our community so we can be working for the betterment of our community. This assessment aligns us with other community groups so we can work collaboratively to make sure we’re supporting those needs in every way possible.”
The assessment asks for community input on items ranging from local health resources, barriers to care, and gaps in services to trends regarding health and healthy lifestyles.
“We talk to people and find out their thoughts on what it means to be healthy – do you have access to healthy food? To recreational areas where you can get physical activity? Can you afford your prescriptions? Those are just some examples,” explained Chris Cook, the Assistant Health Commissioner for Clark County Combined Health District which works hand in hand with Mercy Health to collect data for the CHNA.
The top three focus areas identified during the last assessment, conducted in 2019, were chronic disease, maternal, infant, and sexual health, as well as mental health and substance abuse. However, health officials think recent events may see some of those needs change.
“It’ll be interesting to see how some of the data plays out when we’re assessing people’s thoughts on access to health care and what they believe the capacity of the community is, because I’m not sure those questions would be answered the same way had we not had a pandemic,” said Cook.
Mercy Health has seen a significant drop in preventative health screenings since the COVID-19 pandemic began. However, the rates for cancer and other diseases have not seen the same decline.
“We want to be able to catch things that need to be caught, so they’re not advancing those chronic disease numbers. We want to keep people healthy and the best way to do that is to make sure people are seeing their doctors,” explained Young.
She hopes the feedback from this year’s assessment will shed light on how to address the barriers that are keeping people away. The goal of this year’s survey is to document what the top community needs are, but also guide the health system’s community benefit efforts as it plans and prioritizes those investments.
“This is meant to mobilize the entire community and create a response to things the data is showing us will help make people’s lives healthier. It’s a long-term blueprint for our community,” said Cook.
To ensure the survey is an accurate reflection of the community’s needs, health officials are relying on people’s willingness to share.
“We want to make sure people feel cared for and that we’re helping them meet their needs to the best of our ability. So, we really try to get out there to hear what individuals have to say,” said Young. “Last summer, we circulated a digital poll and got really great responses. I was really thankful to see people felt that ‘Yes, my opinion matters. My opinion counts,’ because that’s what this is all about.”
The 2022 CHNA is expected to be completed by this fall, with an implementation strategy approved and in place by January 2023.
For more information about the CHNA or a look at results of previous assessments, visit mercy.com.
Info from Mercy Health