• Health collective releases second community health assessment, outlines goals for coming years
By Hannah Heimbuch
Community providers are continuing a collaborative health effort on the lower Kenai Peninsula, now buoyed by a fresh round of health assessment information.
Some new goals will include continuing work through the programs and partnerships already established by MAPP – Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership, said coordinator Megan Murphy.
The second MAPP health assessment, released this month, reflects a lot of successes over the years since the initial 2009 assessment, she said. The broad-scoping partnerships have spurred dozens of community projects – including working groups and programs that tackle major community health issues, like the Homer Prevention Project, which works toward curbing substance abuse.
South Peninsula Hospital is working within MAPP at the community level, said steering committee member and the hospital’s Public Relations Director Derotha Ferraro. Hospital employees have been involved in a variety of working groups and partner projects, she said, but MAPP information was also useful as the hospital developed its new five-year strategic plan.
“It has lots of different elements to it, and an important part is our service area demographics,” she said. “The MAPP findings were an important part of that. The other part looks at community needs, so the MAPP findings were the absolute foundation there.”
The beauty of such a broad health needs assessment, Ferraro said, is that community health isn’t about just one issue at a time, so one needs a broad scope to look at it; just like physical health isn’t about just one body part or one symptom. Combining diverse wellness efforts, over many years, many issues and many methods, creates a much stronger network. Economics, heart disease, diabetes, recreation, happiness, nutrition — these things are interrelated, she said. MAPP seeks to reflect that in its approach to care.
“This really is changing the way we’re working together,” Murphy said, “and just the language around what it means to have shared measures and shared goals.”
Along with new goals, a few surprising things came out of this latest assessment, Murphy said, including the degree to which major health issues in the community were pervasive throughout the surveys conducted.
The cross-cutting issues identified were economic and affordability issues, adverse childhood and family experiences, access to care, aging population, quality of life, substance abuse and climate change.
Language surrounding childhood trauma and adverse experiences as a root cause for other health issues was particularly prominent, Murphy said, and offers a lot of opportunity for meaningful work.
“If we work to address reducing trauma in early years,” Murphy said, “either though supporting parents or improving support and strength and resiliency in young people, we can make a major impact in their well being.”
MAPP’s next steps also include collecting community input on a new project — a research-based collective impact effort.
In some ways, principles of collective impact are already alive and well among local providers, said SVT Medical Director Dr. Rob Downey, a MAPP steering committee member.
This latest effort will take a single issue – economic limitations, body mass index or substance abuse being a few examples – and tackle it as a community using the same goals and evaluation techniques.
Efforts like this can include connections that go beyond typical health services, Downey said. Church groups, massage therapists, counselors, local food growers, social welfare advocates, the list goes on, but any individual or organization that advocates for some form of physical, mental or spiritual health can be part of collective impact.
MAPP will host a community meeting May 16 to discuss potential target issues.
Downey would like to see a robust public conversation develop, so the target of this project stems from a community-driven place. Organizations already pursuing similar health goals using similar language will continue, he said, offering a “proof of concept;” solid evidence that the approach can work when trying to make large-scale improvements to community well-being.
Giving the effort a common language with which to pursue and measure success, Downey said, can streamline the work already underway.
“There’s terrific energy and potential to be tapped by an organizing process,” Downey said. “That’s the super cool thing about Homer; that the level of energy and work ethic that’s there to stay, and improve the health of the community. It’s a cup overflowing.”
The collective impact process, outlined by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, focuses on five principles — a common agenda, shared measurement tools, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and a backbone support organization.
“The studies you read really show that these collective impact processes bring out the creativity and wisdom in a community,” Downey said, “because the process itself binds different elements of the community and challenges folks to ask a host of important questions about how to get an agreed-upon objective done.”
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