NMC Commentary

Is NMC Focused on Our Community’s Priority Health Needs?

Yes, we are.  Every three years, NMC works with members of our community, a wide-range of local leaders, partners at the Vermont Department of Health, and experts from Quorum Health Resources to conduct a formal Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).  The priorities identified within the CHNA guide NMC’s focus for our prevention efforts, the services and treatment we offer, and our investments in community initiatives.

The 2019 CHNA was recently presented to the Boards of Directors and Leadership Teams of NMC, NOTCH, Franklin County Home Health Agency, and Northwestern Counseling & Support Services in April.  It is now available on NMC’s website at: https://www.northwesternmedicalcenter.org/about-nmc/hospital-data/community-assessments  We look forward to opportunities to share how NMC plans to help address these priorities and discuss how partners in the community can also make positive impacts on these issues.

The priorities are identified through extensive data review from local, state, and national sources as well as the results of an online general community survey.  A broad panel of more than 40 local experts then reviewed the findings and prioritized the issues.  For 2019, the top seven priorities for Franklin and Grand Isle Counties emerged as:  Mental Health; Substance Abuse; Obesity; Suicide; Domestic & Sexual Assault; Food Insecurity; and Tobacco/Vaping.

In 2016, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Obesity were at the top of the CHNA and they are common concerns in similar assessments across Vermont (and the country).  Suicide and Domestic & Sexual Assault also continue to be priorities.  Food Insecurity is new to the priority list as more people become aware of the breadth of this concern.  Tobacco/Vaping is lower on the top priority list than Tobacco Use was in 2016, likely because of the success seen in reducing youth smoking rates, but that hard-earned gain is at significant risk now that vaping (also known as e-cigarettes or “juuling”) and its addictive nature are growing in popularity.

Within the full CHNA document, we outline how NMC is working to help address each priority.  For example, NMC has a strong a partnership with Northwestern Counseling & Support Services with embedded mental health workers in our Emergency Department and Primary Care practices.  We have a remarkable team helping patients recover from substance abuse and addiction.  Our Lifestyle team works with individuals on healthy eating and physical activity to help them achieve healthy weights.  Our Primary Care practices and Emergency Department are attentive to patients at risk for suicide or who may be involved in domestic or sexual assault.  We are significant funders of the Healthy Roots initiative and contribute to (and our staff volunteer with) Northwest Family Foods and Martha’s Kitchen.  NMC is a key player in the Franklin Grand Isle Tobacco Coalition and we offer smoking cessation services through our Lifestyle team.  Spanning all these priorities is our work within RiseVT to engage everyone in our community in embracing healthy lifestyles.  RiseVT is using the power of prevention and partnerships to make the healthy choice the easy choice where we live, work, play, and learn.  The RiseVT movement has gained great momentum in families, schools, businesses, and municipalities.  The positive changes RiseVT seeks to accelerate and amplify help address all of these priorities and put our community on a path to a healthier future for all.

Positive progress is happening in the health of our community as a result of exceptional care and proactive investment in prevention.  No one organization alone can successfully address any of these issues, but together, as a community, we can.

— Jill Berry Bowen, RN, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer