Health Forward Foundation

Eating Right, Staying Fit Top Health Needs of Johnson Co. Residents

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Help with eating right and staying fit are two top health needs for residents of northern Johnson County, according to a group of community leaders.

At the invitation of Shawnee Mission Medical Center, the officials gathered Tuesday evening at the Matt Ross Community Center in downtown Overland Park.

Other significant needs cited by the participants included improved access to mental health services and options for senior care. About 40 people were at the forum.

Trevor Wright, the hospital’s chief operating officer said the feedback at the forum was invaluable.

Hospital administrators can look at data and survey results to determine community needs, “but this puts a face and voice behind that,” he said.

The medical center organized the meeting to help it compile a community health needs assessment for its service area, which includes 23 ZIP codes within about 10 miles of the hospital.

The assessments are required under the Affordable Care Act for nonprofit hospitals, according to Vince Vandehaar, the hospital’s consultant who facilitated the meeting. He said the health-care reform law broadened reporting requirements to justify hospitals’ nonprofit status.

Beginning next year, the rules will require nonprofit hospitals to do a similar review every three years. According to information provided by Vandehaar, hospitals must also have an implementation strategy in place by next year to address the needs determined in the assessment process.

The new requirements also apply to Olathe Medical Center. Vandehaar facilitated a public meeting for that hospital earlier this month.

He said participants at that forum raised similar concerns to those identified in the northern part of the county, including the need for more behavioral health services and help with attacking chronic diseases by addressing problems such as obesity.

It’s important to discuss these issues, Vandehaar told the group Tuesday evening.

“Most people don’t think about health numbers every day,” he said.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment also is part of the discussion.

The department issued an updated Community Health Improvement Plan in May as part of its effort to earn certification through the Public Health Accreditation Board.

The priorities of that plan were mirrored in the issues raised at the hospital forums:

  • Increased physical activity and better nutrition for residents.
  • Improved access to health care.
  • And better availability of treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems.

Vandehaar presented data that included the results of a survey Shawnee Mission Medical Center recently conducted of residents in its service area.

About 10 percent of the approximately 630 respondents listed access to mental health care as “poor” or “very poor.” That was the highest negative rating of the availability of services from the survey. The second biggest service gap turned up in the survey was availability of nursing home care; 7.8 percent of respondents ranked access to those services as “poor” or “very poor.”

Vandehaar also cited data from the annual county health rankings compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin.

In that report, Johnson County ranked first among Kansas’ 105 counties in several categories last year, but it came in 63rd for “physical environment.”

Vandehaar attributed that mostly to the relatively poor air quality in the Kansas City metropolitan area, but that category also included resident’s access to recreational facilities, which play a role in the physical fitness of a community.

Nothing presented at the forum suggested that Shawnee Mission Medical Center needed to radically shift directions, Wright said. The comments, he said, validated the hospital’s focus on wellness and mental health services.

The priorities identified by the group might seem fairly obvious, said participant Cherie Boxberger, quality and system improvement director with the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association in Overland Park.

But, she said, it helped to see all the facts and figures in one presentation to “get a pulse” for the county’s status and to take a “foundational step” toward addressing the needs.

Johnson County might have plenty of parks and a highly educated population that knows the importance of eating right and exercising, Boxberger said, but that doesn’t mean everyone takes advantage of the amenities or lives a healthy lifestyle.

The hospital and its physicians, she said, can play an important role in driving home the need for personal responsibility.

Your spouse might bug you for years to quit smoking, she said, but it’s different coming from your doctor.
“People will listen to their physician,” Boxberger said.

Health Forward Foundation
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