A Closer Look at Campbell County’s Health Needs

When asked what impacts local health most, what Campbell County Health and Campbell County Public Health reveal may shock you.  But, first, a bit about how we look at overall health in and around the 82717, and who’s responsible for compiling and disseminating this information for us. 

Assessing health

Every three years, a Community Health Needs Assessment, or CHNA, is conducted locally to identify health priorities and concerns for Campbell County.  The CHNA’s secondary service areas include Crook, Weston, Johnson and Sheridan counties.  The CHNA and subsequent implementation strategies are relatively newly-required of all tax-exempt hospitals as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as Obamacare.  But, do they serve their intended purpose? 

Campbell County Health Community Relations Director Karen Clarke thinks so.  “It’s always good when you have people in the community come together to talk about the problems our community faces,” she said. 

Campbell County Public Health Executive Director Jane Glaser agrees.  In theory, assessments and strategies such as these create an important opportunity to improve the health of entire communities by ensuring hospitals and other stakeholders, including healthcare professionals and other nonprofits, have the information needed to provide optimum care and community benefits.  These items can come in the form of assorted programs and offerings, all intended to meet the needs of their respective communities. 

“It’s a community-wide health initiative,” said Karen.  “It’s not a governmental body or a separate entity. It’s a report that’s issued as the result of some people coming together to say, ‘wow, wouldn’t it be great if we could help’ and make a positive impact.” 

For starters

Campbell County first looked to implement a CHNA back in 2012.  With approval from the Campbell County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees and the Campbell County Board of Commissioners, the project moved forward in 2013, when two organizations stepped up to conduct the assessment.  Those two groups were Campbell County Health (CCH) and Campbell County Public Health (CCPH).

Together, in 2016, they embarked on the second and most recent CHNA project.  The Wyoming Institute of Population Health, a division of Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, in partnership with the Wyoming Hospital Association, as well as the State Health Department, helped to gather data on the county and state levels to be used in the assessments.

The project, which identifies and defines health priorities and key actions to improve the status of health within its service area, consists mostly of gathered input and insights from the handful of relevant sectors and community resources, the majority of which were previously mentioned.  The process also included members of the general public, people from local schools and job sites, along with interested health institutions and nonprofit organizations.  Additional statistics and data can also come from local health clinics, healthcare and other professionals, and patients.  Even guest services representatives, voluntary participants at the hospital, and administrative services such as human resources and financial services become involved.

Guiding advancements

According to the Campbell County Health website, CHNA results can play a key role in guiding the development and implementation strategies of both Campbell County Health and Campbell County Public Health’s community benefit programs.

But, the impacts of CHNA results reach far beyond the two entities that perform the project’s research and development—making the assessment an immeasurable community asset with its ability to provide information and data to a magnitude of local organizations, which can then use that information to strengthen the impact and effectiveness of their own respective, individual service offerings.

The end result: A community of professionals working toward improving overall health throughout the community.    

The 2016 CHNA report, the Campbell County Health and Campbell County Public Health Community Needs Assessment—A process for Improvement—Action Plan 2016 – 2019, was released over two years ago.  But, it paints a vivid picture of Gillette and Campbell County that is still relevant today. 

It tells the story of the unique challenges we face, which range from incidents of infection for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea to suicide, domestic violence, alcohol-impaired driving and deaths, as well as chronic disease and child abuse, infant health, food safety, and more.  The data represented paints a rather bleak and tragic picture of the physical and mental health of the people of 82717—our friends, family and neighbors. 

You should read it.  To do so, visit cchwyo.org/About_Us/Community_Needs_Assessment.aspx.

It’s an important tool and resource for industry leaders, as well, to use in prioritizing health concerns.  Members of a 2016 CHNA group outlined their top health concerns as suicide, access to care for the uninsured and/or underinsured, abuse (adult and child), as well as cancer prevention and early detection efforts. 

Now, while the hospital is uniquely driven to provide feedback through the needs assessments (it’s required that they lead or be meaningfully involved in the project as a part of Obamacare), the results of this work are undeniably far-reaching.  Further, the resulting changes, that occur to support healthy living in our community are vast. 

Still, past CHNAs have not gone without public scrutiny.  In fact, the goals and practicalities of CHNAs, in general, however meaningful, have long been criticized.  In the past, specifically following the first assessment in 2013, weaknesses were identified to include a surplus of goals and a need for improved communication.  Such results could be interpreted, by some, to mean the project itself was lackluster and ineffective. 

That said, in review of the 2013 CHNA Action Plan, which is included in the CHNA report to outline the strengths and weaknesses of the project as a whole, data shows the Campbell County School District’s flu shot program, the V.I.P. Project, is keeping kids healthier here by cutting flu rates in half and sick days by two-thirds in the 2016 school year.  This, in turn, keeps parents at work (and not home with their sick children), benefiting the community at large. 

More comprehensive

By definition, a comprehensive community needs assessment must cover, completely or broadly, the health needs and considerations of the entire community.  Although branded as a comprehensive CHNA, arguably, the current form of assessment for Campbell County lends little to the conversation about the health of local youths.

This may, or may not, ultimately negate its intended purpose—to help our community to be healthier. 

Consider this: If healthy choices for the body and mind begin in early childhood, might a youth health needs assessment specific to Campbell County kids and teens be in order? 

For more information on the plan and data for a healthier community, or to ask about an invitation to participate in the upcoming Spring 2019 CHNA, contact Campbell County Health Community Relations Director Karen Clarke at (307) 688-1581, or by email to karen.clarke@cchwyo.org.

“Any community assessment is only as good as the people who participate in it and then work to implement its recommendations,” said Karen.  “I would encourage any interested parties to participate in the next CHNA.  We will be pushing out information on how to do that in early 2019.”

By: Stephanie L. Scarcliff for 82717

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