Local partners release Buncombe County, WNC ‘Community Health Assessments’

A new partnership has brought several local agencies together to collect and analyze data to establish priorities, create local plans, and align investments to improve health. While Mission Hospital, Buncombe and Madison have partnered in the past in a variety of ways, this is the first time that these three agencies have worked together on a project with this scope and potential for impacting health in their local communities. Here’s the press release from the Buncombe County Department of Health:

Mission Hospital and Health Department Partnership in Buncombe and Madison Counties Completes Major Community Health Assessment Effort

December 11, 2012

Mission Hospital, Buncombe County Department of Health, and the Madison County Health Department have been working together to complete a comprehensive Community Health Assessment for 2012. This partnership has brought the agencies together to consider new and existing data to establish priorities, create local plans, and align investments to improve health. While Mission Hospital, Buncombe and Madison have partnered in the past in a variety of ways, this is the first time that these three agencies have worked together on a project with this scope and potential for impacting health in their local communities.

This process is part of a regional partnership, WNC Healthy Impact, which recently completed a major regional data collection effort to provide information to local communities and regional leaders working on community health improvement. WNC Healthy Impact is an innovative regional partnership between hospitals and health departments designed to improve community health in sixteen western North Carolina counties. This regional partnership and process do not replace the local community health assessment and planning efforts, but enhance them through regional collaboration and resource sharing.

For the first time, a large set of comparable data is available for all sixteen counties that participated in WNC Healthy Impact, including comparisons to the region as a whole. This allows Mission Hospital to view the same types of data on both Buncombe and Madison counties, which are the two counties defined in Mission Hospital’s service area. This is a great benefit for all three agencies, which can use the data to make better-informed decisions about how to best impact the health of local communities.

Some example data findings for Buncombe and Madison:

• The top three leading causes of death in Buncombe and Madison counties are heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease.

• Nearly 2 out of 3 adults in Buncombe and Madison counties are overweight, and over 1 in 4 are obese.

• Roughly 1 out of 5 Buncombe and Madison adults currently smoke. However, there is strong public support for tobacco-free environments.

• The uninsured population in the region for 2009-2010 was 20.8% in Buncombe County, 23.8 % in Madison County, compared to 22% in the WNC region and 24% in North Carolina.

• Forty-six percent (46%) of survey participants in Buncombe County and 43.8% in Madison County reported that they regularly care or provide assistance to a friend or family member who has a health problem or disability, compared to 42% in the WNC region.
These data points highlight only a few of those gathered from this regional data collection effort. This data is now being considered by local partners in Buncombe and Madison counties to enable prioritization and planning processes to move forward.

Engaging partners in interpreting the local data, the following health priorities were set:

Buncombe County 2012 Community Health Assessment Priority Areas:

• Women’s Preconception Health

• Healthy Living and Healthy Weight

• Early Child Development and Children’s Health

• Access to Primary and Mental Health Care
Madison County 2012 Community Health Assessment Priority Areas:

• Chronic Disease Preventive Care and Treatment

• Child Health

• Access to Mental Health Care
* Poverty and Access to Care are woven into all areas

In addition, WNC Healthy Impact will consider the identified local priorities and regional data in selecting two regional issues that could be collectively addressed in the years ahead.

“We have gathered some very meaningful data through this effort. However, there is more work ahead to assure that we are successfully bringing together the right strategies and resources to help address priority health needs in our communities,” stated Gibbie Harris, Director of the Buncombe County Department of Public Health and co-chair of the WNC Healthy Impact Steering Committee. “Our communities should be pleased to know that their health departments and hospitals across the region are committed to working together throughout this community health improvement process.”

“It has been a privilege for Mission Hospital to be an active participant and sponsor of the Community Health Assessment and to partner with Buncombe and Madison Counties’ Health Departments,” said Jill Hoggard Green, PhD, RN, President of Mission Hospital and Mission Medical Associates.  “Effectively serving our communities starts with an understanding of our greatest needs, and this data is critical to us working collaboratively to improve the health and wellness of our community.” 

Now Mission Hospital along with the Buncombe and Madison communities will continue to collaborate on how to strategically address and invest in priority health needs over the next few years.

These local community health assessments, which include details about local assets, priorities, and next steps, will be available soon on the Buncombe County and Madison County Department of Health websites: www.buncombecounty.org/healthreports and www.madisoncountypublichealthnow.com

The regional WNC Community Health Assessment Report and other details about the regional process and survey are available on the WNC Healthy Impact website: www.WNCHealthyImpact.com.

For more information on the community health assessment and/or to get involved in the community health improvement process in your county, please contact your local health department. 

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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