In 2009, the Affordable Care Act set a new rule requiring hospitals to conduct a Community Health Needs Assessment at least every three years in order to find out what the community sees as important to their health. Rutland Regional Medical Center has been conducting these assessments (called CHNAs) since the late 1990s, long before it was required. Here in the Rutland area, we have a rich history of community outreach, searching for the voice of the people who live here as best we can.

The CHNA is always active in some form. In October, the assessment report for 2018 was published; it can be found at www.rrmc.org/about/community-health-needs-assessment/. The research for the report began in October 2017 and continued through April 2018. The information is gathered in three ways: a survey, research and focus groups. You may have seen the survey at your doctor’s office, or got an email with the survey link.

We had 525 people complete the survey. We also held six focus groups around the county, from Brandon and Castleton to Pawlet and Shrewsbury. Hours were spent on finding statistics on the health of the people who live here and comparing that to other areas in the state and across the country. After all that information was gathered, community members from multiple organizations were asked to narrow down the topics to the four biggest needs the community had identified. The top four needs for the 2018 cycle were chosen to be:

— Supporting an aging community

— Childcare and parenting supports

— Mental health

— Housing as health care

Right now, there are committees for each of these areas. In February, they will complete the Strategy and Implementation Plan. This will provide a roadmap for the community for the next few years, so that when different groups or organizations do work in these areas, they will be working towards a common goal, leading to more success. Many organizations use the information found in this report to write grants and proposals so they can invest in their work towards a healthier community.

These new priorities do not mean that topics identified in 2015 — better access and use of healthcare, and promoting a culture of healthier living — go away; it just means the focus has shifted for now towards these new goals. The 2018 CHNA report is the next milestone for our ongoing work to improve the health of our community, as defined by our community. Stay tuned for more information in early 2019.

This week’s Health Talk was written by Marjanna Barber-Dubois, community benefits supervisor, Community Health Improvement, Rutland Regional Medical Center.

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