Hospitals come together on Community Health Needs Assessment

Local hospitals are working on plans to specifically address health needs determined by a recent joint study.

Overall results of the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment were presented recently at the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Cape program. Among the biggest concerns: mental health services, certain chronic diseases and forms of cancer, obesity and health care affordability.

As reported by Jay Wolz, Saint Francis Health System and SoutheastHEALTH collaborated to collect information about health concerns in Cape Girardeau County as well as in Bollinger, Scott and Stoddard counties. The four counties comprise the primary service area for both health organizations.

The study, which previously had been conducted separately by the two hospital systems, is a requirement of the Affordable Care Act and must be conducted every three years to ensure that not-for-profit hospitals are addressing the needs of the populace. The hosptials and the county health departments surveyed 237 people in their four-county service area, conducted six focus groups and collected demographic data.

Both hospitals found common themes.

To their credit, the hospitals were already working toward meeting some of the identified needs. One obvious example is SoutheastHEALTH's plan to partner with Universal Health Services to start up a 102-bed psychiatric hospital here in Cape Girardeau. The region has needed more mental health services for quite some time. Substance abuse, depression and bipolar disorder were among the many issues noted in the report.

The hospitals continue to look for ways to address cancer and other diseases.

Of course, we all have some individual responsibility to take care of our health, whether that means taking control of our diet and exercise to avoid obesity and heart issues; knowing when we should address mental health issues before they become serious; and learning more about whatever health issues that we're susceptible to from our genetic dispositions.

But it's a good practice for our county's largest healthcare providers to take the pulse of our collective health, and we commend them on collaborating in the assessment this year. The exercise forces the entities to look at health issues from a needs standpoint, and not just health issues that lead to the highest profit margins.

We encourage everyone to be more aware of their health and to try to make healthy choices and develop healthy habits. Choices made on an individual basis will go a long way to helping us be healthier on the whole. Here's to all who are doing their best to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and here's to all our county's healthcare workers who do their best to tend to the sick. The collaborative way this study is conducted is but one example of how working together can benefit the region.