This is a guest post by John Gardner, CEO of Yuma District Hospital and Clinics and a CCMU board member. He works to make his facilities the provider of choice for health services and his community a healthier place to live, work and play.
Seven years ago, I moved from my comfortable urban environment to frontier Colorado to manage a critical access hospital and two rural health Clinics. I naively believed I would be serving a healthy population, due to the “country lifestyle.” It did not take long to realize that this “healthy” population has significant health risks.
Our Community Needs Assessment identified a multitude of issues, both of health conditions and risky health behaviors, including:
- Ninety percent of the population reports that they include few fruits and vegetables in their daily diet. Who would have expected that from a population living in an agricultural community?
- Thirty-eight percent of the population is obese compared to a statewide average of 18%.
- Close to 20% of the population uses tobacco on a regular basis.
- There are limited low-cost or free resources available in the community for exercise.
These findings made it very clear to our organization that we could not just prescribe changing behaviors to improve health. In order to create a healthier community, we would need to become partners with the community. It gave us the opportunity to expand our role as a health care provider and find ways to support good health outside of the clinical setting.
Part of that effort was to develop a care delivery system that worked better for patients. We incorporated elements of the Patient Centered Medical Home model and also became National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) certified. This helped us assemble resources and improve our care coordination, and it’s already paying off—this model has resulted in improved health for many of our patients. It also has improved the patient experience, as they appreciate the increased support that they get as they manage their health.
To further address the findings from our needs assessment, we decided to develop a health park on the hospital campus, and approached the Colorado Health Foundation to request funding. We envisioned the park with running/walking paths and outdoor exercise equipment—resources sorely needed in our community. Thanks to the generous support and partnership of the Foundation, the Yuma District Hospital and Clinic Life Trails Health Park is scheduled to be completed early this fall.
The work continues, but our early progress has been significant. As a result of our partnerships with the community to identify needs and develop a clear plan, and our partnerships with philanthropic organizations that help us carry out our ideas, our impact has been greater than it would have been otherwise. And it’s my belief that we will have a healthier community as a result.