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November 1, 2013
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Guest column: Community engagement key to health assessment

Umpqua Health Alliance began its work as the coordinated care organization serving Oregon Health Plan members in Douglas County in August 2012.

As part of this initiative, Senate Bill 1580 and the Oregon Health Authority required that each CCO form a Community Advisory Council made up of volunteers representing the diversity and regional distribution of the county. Furthermore, it required that at least 51 percent be made up of county residents who receive health care services from the CCO. This is an important measure that helps provide a balanced perspective.

I’m proud of the work our advisory council has done to advise Umpqua Health Alliance’s board of directors in making decisions that affect the health of individuals and the community.

In order for the advisory council to have an open and honest internal dialogue and allow for a free flow of ideas, we have maintained our members’ privacy.

We believe this approach is vital to ensuring our CCO has the best knowledge of how to most effectively serve our Oregon Health Plan patients. With this as our guiding principle, our advisory council undertook the colossal task of conducting a Community Health Assessment, which entailed months of collecting, cataloging and reviewing data related to the health of county residents.

The Community Health Assessment required the time of several of our advisory council members, Douglas County Health and Social Services and an independent consultant. In addition, the effort engaged a large group of diverse residents in focus groups to help us identify trends and opportunities to improve the health of our community.

The advisory council understands Douglas County is culturally and geographically diverse. That’s why our committee set up eight focus groups in various locations with 77 participants who represented several target populations.

We made sure they felt comfortable so we could find out what they think their communities need to be healthier. The purpose of the groups was to gather data on perceptions and increase community engagement in setting priorities for individual and community health.

The Community Health Assessment provided a broad view of community health issues and revealed that Douglas County has some major challenges in delivering health care to a large segment of the population that lives at or below the poverty level.

In particular, our county ranks high in many risk factors related to healthy communities such as poverty, unemployment, tobacco use, obesity and education.

The results of the Community Health Assessment will help local organizations work together to address the identified health disparities. We hope also to improve all facets of health care for segments of the population that may not otherwise have access to adequate health care services, primarily those on the Oregon Health Plan.

In 2011, nearly 25 percent of adults age 19-64 in Douglas County were uninsured. Lack of health insurance coverage continues to be a barrier to accessing needed medical care.

The Community Health Assessment is the first step in an ongoing process of planning and improvement.

By looking at our community’s current health status and needs, we are better equipped to create a service plan with the goals of improving health outcomes and reducing health care costs.

The advisory council already shared the Community Health Assessment’s key findings at two public meetings and has a third meeting in Roseburg at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Douglas County Library, Ford Community Room, 1409 N.E. Diamond Lake Blvd. If you were/are unable to attend, have questions, want more information or are interested in viewing the full report, visit www.umpquahealthalliance.org or call 541-464-6291.

The CCO is a community-based model designed to engage county residents in working together with our community’s best health and interests in mind.

I’m proud to work with Umpqua Health Alliance on its Community Advisory Council and am grateful to those who participated in the Community Health Assessment process.

Patti LaFreniere is coordinator of Umpqua Health Alliance, the coordinated care organization for Oregon Health Plan patients in Douglas County. She can be reached at PLaFreniere@architravehealth.com or 541-464-6291.

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The News-Review Updated Nov 1, 2013 06:16PM Published Nov 1, 2013 05:11PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.