As one of the three major hospitals in Washtenaw County, the University Health System’s recently released community health report could open the door for a greater partnership between the University Hospital and county residents.
The Community Health Needs Assessment is part of the hospital’s compliance with the Affordable Care Act of 2010 — President Barack Obama’s health care reform legislation — that requires all tax-exempt hospitals such as UMHS to conduct reports on community health status as well as implement strategies to address discovered issues. The report was drawn up by a UMHS team who reviewed data from a county-wide health information survey.
Keven Mosley-Koehler, coordinator of the Community Benefit and Community Health Needs Assessment, said the report has proven beneficial to the health needs of the area.
“Really I think that part of the thrust of the Affordable Care Act is really it’s asking the questions of health systems saying ‘how can we deploy the economic power, the human and intellectual resources of our institution to build healthier and more prosperous communities?’ ” Mosley-Koehler said.
The 52-page report identified the following community needs as the targets of the hospital’s greatest attention, in order of priority: access to care, mental health, substance abuse, obesity, pre-conceptual and perinatal health, immunizations and child abuse and neglect.
The data used in the CHNA came from a survey in which UMHS collaborated with the Washtenaw County Public Health Department, Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital of Ann Arbor and Chelsea Community Hospital.
Due to the large sample size, Mosley-Koehler said the extensive survey enabled UMHS to look not only at the health needs within the county as a whole, but also at trends within different demographic groups defined by factors such as socioeconomic status, race, region, education and attainment of health insurance.
“As a whole, Washtenaw County has comparable health needs to other counties that have comparable demographics,” she said. “But when you start to look at the health within Washtenaw County by these specific social factors, that’s when you start to see really (great) differences … risk factors, health status, things like that.”
She said one of the most dramatic factors for determining health status is education level of the population. For example, 25 percent of respondents from the county as a whole reported engaging in no physical activity whereas the number was 65 percent when looking only at respondents who had only a high school education.
Mosley-Koehler said another trend in the data was binge drinking. However she said unlike most other health concerns, where the trends are often determined by factors other than location, the Ann Arbor area showed much higher rates than other parts of the county. She said this could be due to the large student population in the area.
Mosley-Koehler said one of the most alarming trends that the report touched on and marked as a health priority was that of child abuse and neglect, which is increasing at a “staggering rate.” However, one of the reasons the team chose to list child abuse and neglect as a hospital priority was in part their confidence in their resources to target it.
“We believe that we have the strength within our health system in terms of our specially trained providers and our child protection team to work not only within Washtenaw County but at a state level to build everyone’s capacity to identify the signs of child abuse and neglect and to intervene early,” she said.
In order to address the county’s health concerns discovered in the data and examined in the report, Mosley-Koehler said the hospital system will continue to prioritize community based efforts, something she said the hospital already shows strength in.
Mosley-Koehler said a major part of “community benefit” — something that the federal government requires tax-exempt hospitals to provide — includes subsidized and uncompensated health care as well as community improvement programs that engage in education and awareness.
She said the hospital’s goals are impossible without the collaboration of other health care partners within the area, Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital of Ann Arbor and Chelsea Community Hospital.
Correction appended: The second to last paragraph had two errors. Uncompensated, not compensated, health care programs are part of the “community benefit” and the federal government, not the Affordable Care Act, requires tax exempt programs to provide these programs.