CHI Mercy Health, as a nonprofit, gives back to the community in a variety of ways.
Kathleen Nickel, director of communications at CHI Mercy Health and David Price, director of Mission Integration at Mercy were interviewed by host Lisa Platt on the Talking Health program on News Radio 1240 KQEN and they talked about Mercy’s community benefit programs and services and supporting community health and wellness efforts.
The following is an edited version of the interview from June 25, 2018.
Lisa: Kathleen, can you fill us in on Community Benefit?
Kathleen: As a faith-based hospital and a not-for-profit system, it’s part of our being a responsible organization that we give back to our community beyond the medical care we provide. Our ultimate goal and mission is to help improve the overall health and well-being of everyone who lives here.
Lisa: What is the difference between the Community Health Needs Assessment and the Community Health Improvement Plan?
Kathleen: The Community Health Needs Assessment is where we gather community input through multiple avenues, to hear what our residents identify as the greatest health needs in our community.
From this information we prioritize what the key areas are, and we start the process of building out our Community Health Improvement Plan.
Lisa: During the discovery phase, what rose to the top?
Kathleen: The four pillars were tobacco utilization, healthy weight, violence prevention, and parenting education.
The focus on parenting education is really a great example of non-traditional health care or delivery a service that we can engage in to help our community be healthier, and certainly filling the needs of our parents is going to benefit the children in our community.
Lisa: Would you talk about social determinants of health and population of health?
Kathleen: Social determinants are areas that essentially affect people’s health risks because of where they live, work or learn. With social determinates, we know that unsafe neighborhoods and unsafe environments do affect people’s personal health.
One indicator is education, and I think we’re going to probably hear more this next year about the critical importance of high school graduation. Education is really a predictor of better health, because getting at least a high school diploma creates a solid foundation.
Unfortunately, Douglas County is not doing particularly well in ensuring that our kids make it successfully from kindergarten to graduation.
Mercy Foundation has done a tremendous amount of work around violence prevention.
Lisa: Our goal is to move upstream, to focus on prevention. We know we need intervention, but if we can prevent these situations from happening, we’re all better for it in our community.
Supporting Families Project was a great initiative within the Up2UsNow. They had a task force that identified ways that we could bridge the gap of treating families that may have some high-risk predictors for domestic violence or child abuse so they connected 211 high risk families with community resources.
A lot of this is based on key partnerships with local agencies like the school districts, Compass, Child Welfare, DHS, the Juvenile Department and the Douglas ESD.
We work with those families — they might need to be connected to a job, might need some training, they might have had a substance abuse issue so we try to get them connected with other resources in the community to prevent future issues. It all comes back to prevention.
Lisa: Would you talk about parenting education?
Kathleen: Our community identified parenting education as a strong need. We took about nine months gathering information about programs and services and were pleased to learn that there are a number of programs already in place. Some of what we discovered was a general lack of awareness about these resources. So we’ve been able to support sharing this information via social media.
David: We also wanted to provide a virtual option for parents with transportation challenges or maybe just simply a matter of convenience. If I’m a busy working dad or mom and single parent and I have to pick up three kids from school, the likelihood of me being able to travel in and attend a class in the evening is going to be pretty low.
Lisa: Kathleen, let’s move to the general support of wellness? Is it just healthy eating and exercise?
Kathleen: That’s part of it. There are a lot of avenues involved with Blue Zones that can help our adult community get healthier.
One way is through exercise and there are a lot of options available, especially this summer with Kick-Start Douglas County which offers several free classes.
We are also starting to work more closely with worksites, because that’s where people spend most of their time. The goal is to make the healthy choice, the easy choice and employers have been very receptive.
David: I really like the emphasis on natural movement. It’s about finding opportunities in your environment to move in ways that would induce better health.
It’s really taking advantage of maximizing those opportunities in your area, whether that’s a bike path or walking path, you’re getting exercise in a fairly convenient and natural way and at the same time getting all those health benefits, and without even realizing it.
Lisa: What have we been doing to combat the tobacco issue?
David: We’ve used a combination of initiatives, to help with tobacco prevention and tobacco cessation. We’re also focusing on tobacco litter and waste reduction.
In the hospital, we have referral systems for the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line that is integrated into our electronic health system.
Essentially what happens during the nursing intake assessment is that they ask if you use tobacco products and if they’d like support in stopping the habit. If they consent, we do a referral through the Oregon Tobacco group and they do all the follow-up.
We also have our partnership with the Mayo Clinic and Truth Initiative, which is the digital Becomeanx program that is an online program at www.becomeanex.org, that people can enroll in. There is no cost and it’s open to anyone.
They also have an online community of ex-smokers. So it’s not just people who are theoretically familiar with tobacco addiction, but people who have demonstrated success.