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Community Health Plans Map Routes to Progress

Addressing the most pressing health concerns of communities helps drive impactful change.
Connecting the dots on nutrition, Lacey Family Spring Hill Boys & Girls Club members help plant a community garden in DeLand, Florida.

If ever you find yourself searching for some perspective on what your community needs to be healthy and whole, it is possible you will find that much of that information is just a click away. In communities served by AdventHealth a rigorous assessment is undertaken every three years to identify the needs and formulate a plan for bringing wholeness to those communities.

Contained within the much-anticipated 2023-2025 Community Health Plans (CHP), released to the public on May 15, is a treasure trove of information from across the health system. Each CHP serves as an action plan for addressing the priorities outlined in AdventHealth’s 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), which was released in December and included record input from 22,000-plus community members, 366 stakeholders and 69 focus groups from AdventHealth hospital-campus communities in nine states.

Understanding the Process

Developed by the CHNA and Hospital Health Needs Assessment (HHNA) committees, using the input gathered from stakeholders across sectors including public health, faith-based and business, as well as from individuals directly impacted, the CHPs outline targeted interventions and measurable outcomes for addressing some of the most pressing health concerns of the community, and especially the needs of the most vulnerable.

What becomes future is what we do now.

Evaluated annually, the CHPs are developed in alignment with the work of AdventHealth facilities’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Councils and Mission & Ministry teams across the system, as well as with the data-driven objectives for improving health and well-being outlined in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2030.

While mental and/or behavioral health ranked among top priorities in the majority of plans, also notable on this assessment cycle is the factoring in of Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), such as access to services and quality health care, transportation, safe and affordable housing, food security and workforce development – important because studies have shown that 80% of what drives health care outcomes is known to occur outside hospitals’ walls.

As Executive Director of Community Advocacy Andrew Mwavua points out, that statistic raises a question the CHPs wrangle with: “How can people who need help be better able to access health services before the issues become chronic?” And firmly rooted in the belief that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, Mwavua notes that while those SDOH “might not be explicitly clinical, they impact clinical outcomes.”

Heightened Focus on Needs

The CHPs serve as a sort of “State of Our Communities,” Mwavua says. Those plans and the CHNAs upon which they are based, help advance the strategic goal of heightened awareness around community health needs and what AdventHealth is doing to address those needs. That work is done in collaboration with key partners, including community-based organizations, mental health centers, schools, churches and community centers, and alcohol and substance use referral and treatment programs.

Other significant needs identified in the CHNA process but not chosen as top priorities are also noted in the CHPs. In those instances, the Hospital Health Needs Assessment Committee did not perceive the ability to impact the issue with existing hospital resources or believes that other organizations are better positioned in the community to address this need directly and will support those efforts when able.

Some of the findings are sure to prove eye-opening to many:

Addressing the most pressing health concerns of communities helps drive impactful change.
  • In Florida’s Pasco County, home to AdventHealth Dade City, nearly 45% of community and public health experts surveyed ranked mental health as the most pressing issue. In the hospital’s community, 19.7% of residents have depression.
  • When compared to the rest of the state, Volusia County, on Florida’s east coast, has higher rates of substance overdose deaths per 100,000, along with higher rates for vaping, alcohol, binge-drinking and marijuana use, and a growing fentanyl crisis.
  • Enhancing mental health outreach by increasing available resources to meet the growing need in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties is also a priority for the AdventHealth Central Florida Division – South Region.
  • In the community served by AdventHealth Hendersonville (North Carolina), 17% of residents surveyed reported seven days or more of poor mental health, compared to 9.2% in 2015. The suicide rate has been climbing steadily and stands as the seventh overall leading cause of death in Henderson County and third in the 20-39 age group. In an area where a quarter of homeowners and 42.8% of renters are paying over 30% of their income toward housing, safe and affordable housing was also deemed a priority.
  • According to survey respondents in the AdventHealth Manchester (Kentucky) community, 37.2% have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder and more than 42% with an anxiety disorder. Besides mental health, other top priorities are cardiovascular diseases – more than 40% of community survey respondents report having hypertension, a major contributing factor to heart disease – and transportation.
  • Along with heart disease and heart-related issues and cancer, vaping is a top concern in communities served by AdventHealth Murray and AdventHealth Gordon, where 30.8% and 19.7%, respectively, of community respondents said they are vaping every day or some days.

Key Takeaways

Perhaps one clear message to extract from the CHPs is this: It’s all about connecting the dots, says Debi McNabb, director of community benefit for AdventHealth Central Florida Division – North Region. “You don’t just wake up one morning with cardiovascular disease or diabetes.”

One of AdventHealth Shawnee Mission’s priorities, for example, is Nutrition and Healthy Eating. More than 41% of community survey respondents reported eating fruits and vegetables less than two days a week. Nutrition is known to be a critical influencer of health. Healthy eating improves maternal health and health at every stage of life. It builds stronger immune systems, lowers the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, while increasing longevity.

Nutrition and Healthy Eating is also a priority for AdventHealth Durand in Wisconsin and for AdventHealth Central Texas and AdventHealth Rollins Brook (Texas).

Ultimately, Mwavua says, the goal is to build capacity in and with local communities so that they can more actively participate and, to an even greater extent, co-own the process and the deliverables. “What becomes future is what we do now” Mwavua says. “Community Health Plans help guide strategic investments toward creating a more conducive ecosystem that increases the probability of longevity of life with quality.”

Addressing the most pressing health concerns of communities helps drive impactful change.

For additional insights, click here to read the Community Health Plans and Community Health Needs Assessments.

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