Hospital collaborates on addressing community health needs

Results of an extensive assessment of community health needs shows the biggest challenges facing Madison County are similar to those facing many rural communities across the country.

With a continued focus on these health priorities, OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony’s Health Center, in partnership with community collaborators, is promoting initiatives that have already achieved results in multiple areas.

A review of data and interviews with leaders and Madison County residents confirmed priority areas of concern:

  • Healthy Behaviors (defined as active living and healthy eating and their impact on obesity, access to food, and food insecurity)
  • Mental Health (defined as depression, anxiety, and suicide);
  • Substance Use (defined as abuse of illegal and legal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco/vaping use)

The results have already driven strategic efforts with great collaboration among community partners. For example, OSF Innovation has offered OSF Silver Cloud, a smart phone-online resource that provides free, 24/7 access to evidence-based programs to relieve symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. It’s backed by navigators who can provide referrals when necessary.

Conducted every three years through community surveys, the Community Health Needs Assessment evaluates the overall health of Madison County and creates an important opportunity to improve the health of the community.

There were 582 surveys collected in Madison County in 2019, including from community members most at-risk due to limited financial means. Results show some real challenges to health, including the fact that a majority of residents exercise less than two times a week and eat fewer than 1-2 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

“We have implemented strategies including referring 600 primary care patients at OSF Medical Group to nutritional education programs among other efforts but we know we have work to do,” said OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony’s Health Center President and CEO Ajay Pathak. OSF Saint Anthony’s and community partners are developing a three-year implementation plan for Madison County to improve health and well-being by empowering people with information, knowledge, and accessibility.

The strategy will also build on efforts that have included free community screenings for skin cancer, prostate cancer, alcohol use, depression and anxiety along with community education programs for improving and maintaining sobriety and mental wellness.

“We can build on past strategies by leveraging the strengths and resources of all of our community partners and by collectively mapping resources for the highest and best use, according to Pathak.

He added, “We are serious about finding innovative solutions that are practical, affordable, and embraced by the community because when the health of our residents improves, the entire community benefits.”

Damian Jones (shown), executive director of Student Athletes Leading Tomorrow (SALT) Youth agrees. He also believes part of the strategy must include ways to help people see the value of taking charge of their own health and well-being.

“We believe focusing on what’s contributing to individual behavior plus analyzing other social risks that can be addressed community-wide can make significant strides in preventing health issues,” said Jones. “I’m convinced using additional data-informed approaches coupled with one-on-one outreach and resources such as grants available for promising practices, we can solve challenges facing many communities but which seem to hit hardest in rural areas.”

Here are organizations who are part of the collaborative efforts:

  • Alton School District
  • Alton Boys and Girls Club
  • Belize Mission Project
  • Centerstone
  • Family Health Clinic
  • Lewis and Clark Community College
  • Madison County Health Department
  • Oasis Women’s Center
  • Riverbend Growth Association
  • SALT Youth
  • United Way of Madison County

Since its last Community Health Needs Assessment in 2016, OSF HealthCare has seen system-wide improvement in three key areas: access to medical care, behavioral health and obesity.

For more information on the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment, or for an electronic copy, visit https://www.osfhealthcare.org/about/community-health/.

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