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Town Hall Topics: Health Care
Community assesses local needs

The results of a recent online survey of community health services were reviewed Thursday during a town-hall meeting at the Holiday Inn Express. Mental health and drug abuse were among the top areas of concern.
In January, St. Rose Health Center began its 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment. These assessments became a requirement of tax-exempt hospitals as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. By statute, the CHNAs must take into account 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.”

“We’re here to look at the data; we’re here to have conversations,” said town-hall facilitator Vince Vandehaar, a consultant from Olathe.
The purpose of the meeting was to identify areas of strengths and areas to change or improve, as seen by community members.
Strategies for responding to the greatest needs will be developed at a future meeting, approximately four to six weeks from now.
Noting that health-care is always a “local business” and it spans patients’ needs from birth to the grave, a cross-section of the community is needed for an accurate picture. “We’ve got to think about all of our community in our discussion today,” he said.
Vandehaar had the latest County Health Rankings from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Barton County ranks 58 out of 105 Kansas Counties in its “health outcomes.” When the assessment was last done in 2015, Barton ranked 68th, so there has been some improvement.

One red flag area is poverty, especially among children. Twenty percent of Barton County children are in poverty, compared to 17 percent statewide.
Barton County Health Department Director Shelly Schneider said there are close to 700 children in Barton County in the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program, which provides grants for supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income women who are pregnant or have infants up to 5 years old.
“Health Behaviors is our weakest (category),” Vandehaar said. Barton County ranks 86th in the state, with red flag areas being adult obesity and sexually transmitted infections.
Looking at the 271 responses to the St. Rose CHNA survey, 86 percent of them went out of Barton County for some sort of health service, compared to the state norm of 76 percent. Types of doctors needed locally that were mentioned Thursday include pulmonologist, endocrinologist, urologist and neurologist.

Ellinwood District Hospital will host a similar town hall meeting next Thursday.