Yes, we do, and the identified top priorities reinforce many of the important efforts at work within our community to address mental health and substance abuse, obesity, smoking, cancer, suicide, and domestic and sexual abuse. We are a community willing to identify and deal with our issues directly and openly, so I do not expect that there are many surprises on that list.
Through a comprehensive approach that includes both (quantitative) statistical analysis and consideration of (qualitative) input and perspective, NMC works with a national assessment specialist and a panel of local experts to identify and prioritize the health needs of our community. We currently do the formal assessment every three years. This aligns with a national mandate which prescribes aspects of the approach and regulatory efforts within Vermont to ensure broad communication of these priorities and the efforts related to addressing them.
Prior to the current national mandate for all not-for-profit hospitals to conduct community health needs assessments, NMC was a partner in local efforts with the Franklin Grand Isle United Way and the Franklin Grand Isle Community Partnership to assess local health needs. Working in partnership with our community like this helps to target the right priorities and to reduce duplication by fostering and guiding a joint plan. Even within a more prescribed approach, that spirit of collaboration is still strong in our process. We sincerely appreciate the involvement of public health officials, agency personnel, school officials, elected leaders, and other community members in interpreting the data, understanding its relevance, and focusing on the pressing priorities.
With the priorities identified, we are now finalizing the assessment by creating an action plan that includes how NMC will help address these priorities over the next three years. All of these issues are too large and too engrained for any one organization or effort to address on its own. On some, the hospital team will be a leading force as the topic tightly aligns with our mission and our internal expertise. On others, our team will be a supportive force, as others have more direct expertise than we do. On all of them, NMC will be an active collaborative force, as we all contribute to improving the health of our community and the local quality of life.
These are broad, long-term issues with no quick fix solutions, though we certainly can make immediate improvements. We have made important progress in recent years, such as the expansion of treatment for addiction, the launch of RiseVT to engage our community in embracing healthy lifestyles, the significant reduction in the rate of adult smoking, and the establishment of NMC’s Breast Care navigator. There is much to be done. Our community must continue to wrap around those with mental health needs and addiction concerns through treatment, support, and prevention. We must shape our community’s and organizations’ infrastructure and policies (and each make time in our day) to enable us each to eat better, move more, and not smoke. We must continue to advance cancer awareness and prevention, increase early detection, and strengthen treatment and support. We must join in heightening suicide prevention and creating a zero tolerance community culture to eliminate domestic and sexual abuse. These will be interwoven efforts, as the underlying factors are often similar, and it will take a comprehensive community team approach to have a long lasting impact.
I believe our community’s willingness to come together to work on improvement is part of what makes this a wonderful place to live. Every community has challenges and, in fact, the health needs across Vermont are fairly consistent. We are fortunate to have an engaged community of providers, partners, and residents who want to work together to make life better for all. As we finalize our assessment document, we will share it broadly to continue to leverage the power of collaboration so we can all work together for a brighter and healthier future. Please look for ways to get involved – and you can start at the personal level (or business, school, organization, and municipal level) by joining RiseVT and beginning to embrace a healthier lifestyle. Please visit www.RiseVT.com for more information. There is accountability as individuals we must commit to in order to have a true community impact. Now let’s get started.
— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer