By Stephanye R. Clarke
Five Steps to Improve Community Health:
- Step One: Listen to members of the community about their needs
- Step Two: Engage other stakeholders, community leaders & multiple data sources
- Step Three: Report health issues to the community
- Step Four: Prioritize health issues and create plan to improve community health
- Step Five: Secure resources and implement plan
I may have completely oversimplified the process, but I believe my colleagues at Ledge Light Health District (LLHD) and Lawrence & Memorial Hospital (L&M) might agree. They are the conveners of a group of local agencies, organizations and community members working together to assess and address the health needs of people living in their service areas.
Yesterday was the beginning of Step Three—the first release of some of the data collected, featuring a focus on issues connected to the social determinants of health. LLHD Epidemiologist Russell Melmed presented some of the findings. High obesity rates, a need for access to healthier foods and reliable transportation were just some of the issues that emerged. One not surprising, but still sobering observation—lower income people continue to struggle not only with their health, but with all those social factors that contribute to health.
Attendees were encouraged attendees to continue to be part of the process by (1) thinking of the root causes for the disparities and (2) joining the next stage—prioritizing health issues, developing a plan to address those issues and improve community health.
There may be creative strategies to address these health needs, including leveraging hospital resources to address those upstream issues. If you know someone who lives in the cities and towns served by LLHD & L&M who may be interested in learning more about the results of the Community Health Needs Assessment and/or the Community Health Improvement Plan, have them visit LLHD’s Facebook page and send them a direct message.
So… where do we go from here? With continual input from residents and other stakeholders, southeastern Connecticut has the opportunity to build an authentic community process for better health.