The health of a community

Community Health Needs Assessment wants input from Butte County residents

Enloe Medical Center diabetes nurse-educator Dawn Bryan (left) provides a glucose test for a community member.

Enloe Medical Center diabetes nurse-educator Dawn Bryan (left) provides a glucose test for a community member.

Photo courtesy of enloe medical center

Take the survey:
The Community Health Needs Assessment online survey is available at through June 9.

What are Butte County’s biggest health needs, and where should organizations put their best efforts to meet those needs? That is the compound—and complex—question the Butte County Public Health Department and three local hospitals are hoping to answer with their joint Community Health Needs Assessment.

A big piece of the process is an online survey, which will be conducted through June 9. As of last Wednesday (May 22), 200 people had responded, adding their perspectives to the feedback that assessment organizers had already received from around a dozen community organizations at three focus-group meetings.

Following a fourth meeting on June 23, hosted by Feather River Hospital, officials from each of the four survey sponsors will collate the collected information and create their own action plans, as is required of all nonprofit medical centers under the Affordable Care Act.

“We can identify hundreds of needs, probably, through this process,” said Deanna Reed, Enloe Medical Center’s community-outreach coordinator. “You don’t necessarily have to address all of them—you have to look at where you can make an impact, either with the resources the hospital has or by partnering with other community resources.”

Enloe is one of the three area hospitals involved in the joint Community Health Needs Assessment. Feather River and Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital are the other two. Previously, each hospital conducted its own needs assessment, but the collaboration makes sense because their service areas sometimes overlap.

“Each of the hospitals has services we offer that may be unique,” Reed explained. “We also have some that are the same, but we’re going to draw from different areas of the region, for sure.” (Reed said she reached out to Oroville Hospital as well, but Oroville already had begun its needs-assessment process, so it is operating separately.)

Hospitals must conduct a needs assessment every three years. They then must create their action plans, and the results of their actions must be released annually in a Community Benefits Report.

Since its 2010 needs assessment, Enloe has adopted a half-dozen measures (the hospital has been conducting community-needs assessments for years, though the regulations have changed for them under the ACA). The measures include the Pillars for Prevention community-outreach sessions to promote healthful lifestyle choices; bolstering the hospitalist program for in-patient specialist physicians; and collaborating with outside agencies for prescription-drug drop-offs, diabetes education and heart-health improvement.

Deanna Reed, Enloe’s community-outreach coordinator.

photo courtesy of enloe medical center

“I’m excited to see what the community sees as needs,” Reed said, “and to find ways to partner with others to address them. There’s only so much we as one organization can do. We have lofty goals, and we want to heal people and make them better, but there’s only so much we can do in a day’s work.

“That’s why I’m excited with how we approached it this year, by reaching out and having one-on-one dialogues with people in the community who share that passion, and hopefully we’ll be able to form partnerships that will be lasting and impactful.”

Reed is encouraged by the scope of the organizations represented in the focus-group meetings. Attendees included public agencies such as Butte County Behavioral Health, the Butte County Office of Education, the city of Chico, and the Social Security Administration. They also included organizations such as the Torres Community Shelter, California Health Collaborative, Planned Parenthood, Passages, and the Community Action Agency of Butte County.

“It was really good dialogue because of the diversity,” Reed said. “We were able to talk about seniors, we were able to talk about children, we were able to talk about the homeless, we were able to talk about drug and alcohol abuse. It really created a robust dialogue.”

At the end of each session, facilitators asked the participants if they’d be willing to collaborate on an action plan. “Without exception,” Reed said, “the answer was ‘Absolutely yes.’ There’s a lot of potential, because if we work together, we can make so much more impact than if each of us works independently.”

What they’ll work on still remains to be seen. That’s where the online surveys will play such a major role. The hospitals and Public Health already have empirical data from; and; now they want specific perspectives.

Two hundred surveys in, Reed has already noticed some trends.

When it comes to the question about risky behaviors, three top answers are alcohol, drugs and child abuse. (Tobacco use is a fourth.) For health conditions of concern, answers include heart disease, obesity, cancer and respiratory conditions.

Reed stresses that these are just preliminary findings. She encourages everyone to add their own answers by taking the survey, which can be completed in 10 to 15 minutes at or through any of the other participants’ websites.

Regardless of which portal one uses, the information—all anonymous—gets collected in a single database accessible by the hospitals and Public Health. The final focus group will be Feather River’s Dinner with the Doctor on June 23, featuring Butte County’s public-health officer, Dr. Mark Lundberg.

Reed is prepared for the mass of information that will be processed. It can seem “overwhelming sometimes,” she admitted, saying that when she sees how many needs and areas for improvement exist, “you want to fix them all, make them all better, and you can’t. But hopefully by going through this process, we can figure out where that need is the greatest and help as many people as we can realistically.”