Emerson Hospital in Concord is undertaking another community health needs assessment that officials hope will lead to improvements in social services as well as responses to health priorities.
The anonymous survey, which can be completed until April 9, is being circulated through what the hospital calls its 25-town service area. Bedford is on the eastern flank, extending northwest to Townsend and southwest to Hudson.
It is addressed not only to residents but also to anyone who is employed in one of the communities.
“We really are focused on the community as a whole and not just people who use our services,” said Kelsey Magnuson, Emerson’s community benefits coordinator. “We want to identify strengths and gaps that we might be able to address in the future through partnerships and at-large collaborations.”
Magnuson, who manages the assessment process, says the hospital undertakes this outreach every three years. Besides the online participation, the process includes focus groups with key stakeholders and community leaders. She said a broad age range is especially important
“We are looking at lots of secondary data from state and national sources and as much local data as we can get,” she said.
The entire process takes six to nine months, Magnuson said. “There’s the assessment phase, and then we take that information and come up with priorities, with our strategic implementation plan.”
“We expect that we will have a completed report and plan in September and rolling that out to the community in the fall. The survey is just one piece of that – a way to get lots of different community input from residents and service providers.”
“Any input is valuable to us,” Magnuson continued. “We are working hard to get as much input as possible and we are putting in extra effort to get typically harder-to-reach people.”
Parts of the survey are compartmentalized to accommodate changes that resulted from virus-induced restrictions over the past year.
“We recognize this is a unique time we are in. We would like to understand what issues have personally affected you and your family now and prior to the Covid,” says one introduction before addressing several topics, such as financial security, food availability, housing, transportation, and safety at home or out.
“We are not ignoring any of our previous efforts or assessments. We are building on that,” Magnuson said. “All of our 2018 efforts [are] rolling into this assessment as well.”
The assessment measures a long list of personal and community health concerns, ranging from tick-borne diseases and tobacco use to cancer and stroke.
There is also a list of nine social issues and how they impact individuals and families as well as communities. Respondents are asked to pick five. The survey also wants respondents to identify issues that made it more difficult to get health care.
One section asks for identifying five local priority areas from a prepared list, applying the criteria of concern, equity, effectiveness, and feasibility.
“In our most recent assessment, completed in 2018, we were hearing from key stakeholders that transportation was an issue. It kept coming up over and over.” Magnuson related. That led to initiatives “to build more partnerships and invest in transportation services. Over the last couple of years, we have been working with different transportation providers as well as towns, and done a lot with senior centers.”
Magnuson cited another outcome from a past assessment when data indicated an increase in the incidence of melanoma. As a result, Emerson teamed with the local chapter of IMPACT Melanoma and installed sunscreen dispensers at high-traffic areas. “It has been a really strong partnership, now in its third season,” Magnuson said. “Now we’re doing education on why sunscreen use is so important.”
There are new issues that have emerged from the confines of the Covid pandemic. “Telemedicine, the access that has provided, and the ability Covid had to streamline and rush that,” Magnuson said. “We had been working on a few key departments, but with Covid, everything was open to utilizing telemedicine. That’s definitely here to stay.”
She pointed out the direct relationship to transportation “concerns and barriers. As the world opens up, transportation continues to be an issue, and there are different layers to that.” However, she added, because of telemedicine “the amount of people needing transportation is drastically reduced.”
Results of the assessment will be published on the Emerson website, at community meetings, and the media, Magnuson said. There will most likely be virtual presentations in the fall regardless of the public health situation, she noted, because the hospital does not have a large capacity meeting space.
The direct link to the survey is https://hria.iad1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bf8ZddDlKu8vHaC
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763