When asked what they thought was the Midlands’ No. 1 health issue, most health professionals and government officials said it was mental health.
However, after Palmetto Health team members in Lexington, Richland and Sumter counties conducted a series of one-on-one and focus group interviews and sifted surveys mailed to 2,000 homes, a much different picture emerged.
As it turned out, the top three health issues and priority areas for intervention with Lexington, Richland and Sumter counties include access to care, overweight/obesity and high blood pressure.
The responses nearly mirrored each other in the counties. For example, access to care was listed as an issue in 16% of responses from Lexington and Richland counties, and 15% in Sumter County where Palmetto Health and Tuomey Healthcare System merged in January 2016. Overweight/Obesity was an issue in 9% responses from of Lexington and Richland counties, and 11% from Sumter. High blood pressures was listed as an issue in 8% of responses from all three counties.
The responses were included in the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), which Palmetto Health conducted. The reports are required of tax-exempt hospitals like the Palmetto Health system because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The assessments and strategies create an opportunity to improve the health of communities, according to a statement Kaiser Permanente, a California-based health care consortium. The reports serve as a road map for hospitals to provide health care that meets the needs of their communities.
The reports also are used to improve coordination of hospital services with other efforts to improve community health. By statute, the CHNAs must consider input from “persons who represent the broad interests of the community served by the hospital facility, including those with special knowledge of or expertise in public health,” Kaiser Permanente said.
The Palmetto Health said its study included 52 one-to-one interviews and 10 focus groups that included nearly 110 participants. Additionally, Palmetto Health mailed more than 2,000 surveys to residents in Lexington, Richland and Sumter counties and received 1,889 responses. The surveys local elected officials, major employers, community organizations and residents.
“Our goal is to ensure that we are providing the best health care to our community,” said Vince Ford, chief community officer. “In order to do that effectively, we wanted to gather new data to help determine what the needs of our community are so that we can address them.”
Palmetto Health will use the report to help improve the overall health and wellness of communities by identifying, prioritizing and implementing action plans, Ford said.
In some instances, Palmetto Health has already taken steps to implement some of the report’s findings. For example, Palmetto Health recently launched a walk-in medical care mobile clinic to help provide greater access to care. The 40-foot long mobile clinic includes two private exam rooms featuring the latest medical equipment and private restrooms, a check-in and waiting area, and an area to perform screenings. Patients age two and older are welcome and no appointment is needed.
The walk-in clinic is available at Palmetto Health Richland Hospital near the emergency department entrance Sunday through Friday, from noon to 10 p.m. Through Palmetto Health’s occupational medicine program, HealthWorks, the mobile clinic will visit local businesses to provide routine wellness screenings and services. The mobile clinic is available at Palmetto Health Richland near the Emergency Department, Sunday-Friday, noon-10 p.m.
Planning already is underway to develop an action plan because of the newest CHNA findings, Ford said.
“We will use the results of this needs assessment, in collaboration with our partners, to guide our efforts in providing services,” Ford said.
The 48-page report is available online at www.palmettohealth.org/document-library/documents/2016-chna-report.