College of Public Health Helps Hospitals Create Blueprints for Community Health Interventions
As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, nonprofit hospitals are required to conduct community health needs assessments (CHNAs) and develop implementation strategies tri-annually to address health deficiencies and close health care gaps in the communities they serve. For nearly six years, the College of Public Health has been on the forefront of helping health care organizations develop CHNAs to improve resident wellbeing in the communities surrounding Kent State University's campuses.
“The current collaboration benefits our students, faculty, and the populations in nine different Ohio counties,” explains Dr. Peter Leahy, the new full-time faculty member working with the College of Public Health on community health needs assessment partnerships. In fact, the work produces income for the College of Public Health that subsidizes graduate research experiences in the health care arena, exposes students to hospital community engagement practices, and, most importantly, generates goodwill by linking the college with the community.
“Currently we have a contract to work with Akron Children's Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Akron General, Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation Institute, and Lodi Community Hospital, as well as Summa Health System, to examine a wide range of epidemiological indicators of population health in areas such as infectious diseases, access to healthcare, chronic diseases, mental health, and injuries and accidents, to name a few. Data from each county are compared to two commensurate Ohio benchmark counties, the State of Ohio and the nation as well as Healthy People 2020 (a national health promotion and disease prevention initiative bringing together individuals and agencies to improve the wellbeing of Americans). Any indicators that diverge prominently from the benchmark comparisons are considered a significant health need by the hospitals,” Dr. Leahy said
Kent’s College of Public Health supplemented the epidemiological analysis with primary data by conducting 26 focus groups with 274 participants and interviewing 95 community leaders to search for issues that may have been missed in the epidemiological analysis. One startling finding from this research was the very rapid increase of substance abuse, especially opioids, as a prevalent community health concern throughout the hospital service areas.
"Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, hospitals also are required to plan specific community health interventions designed to remediate priority health needs in their community based upon the research," Leahy noted. Therefore, the CPH team will additionally advise hospital administrators about relevant promising practices and evidence-based interventions, program evaluation strategies, and assist in developing hospital partnerships with organizations in the community to reach residents. In addition to Dr. Leahy, the team consists of Assistant Dean Ken Slenkovich, Assistant Professor Lynn Falleta, staff member Josh Filla, and several graduate students – Tegan Beechey, Saurabh Kalla, Matt Nichols, Hilla Sang, and Carissa Smock.