King County hospitals join forces to improve the community’s health

By Marguerite Ro, Eva Wong, and Gloria Albetta, Assessment, Policy Development & Evaluation

What are the health needs of our communities in King County?  What community assets can be leveraged to improve health?  These are the types of questions that King County hospitals are asking as part of their work to fulfill a new Affordable Care Act requirement which mandates the hospitals to conduct a community health needs assessment (CHNA) every three years.

A collaborative effort

As the hospitals embarked on their work to conduct a CHNA—some for the first time—they found that they were doing work that overlapped.  So, in 2012, the twelve hospitals and health systems along with Public Health – Seattle & King County joined together to create the “King County Hospitals for a Healthier Community” collaborative which has recently produced its first county-wide CHNA.   Read the Community Health Needs Assessment report here.CHNA report

Listening to the community’s needs

Community input helped inform the CHNA.  Community members pinpointed several critical issues including basic needs such as access to safe and affordable housing, accessible and affordable transportation; the importance of having culturally competent and respectful services; and the importance of community engagement and empowerment. They cited faith institutions, community health centers, food programs, and existing coalitions and partnerships as community assets and resources that should be included in community health improvement processes.

Data reveals health disparities

Data on health indicators reveal that there are lots of opportunities to improve health. The CHNA report provides data on:

  • access to care
  • chronic illnesses
  • behavioral health
  • maternal and child health
  • violence and injury, and
  • leading and preventable causes of death.

On the whole, King County data indicates a healthy population; however, a deeper dive into the data reveals that there are disturbing health disparities by geography, race/ethnicity, and income. For instance, adults with household incomes less than $25,000 were at least 8 times more likely than those earning more than $75,000 to report unmet medical need.

For the King County Hospitals for a Healthier Community, the CHNA is a tool that provides data and information that can help guide their use of resources and work with communities.  They hope that others will also find this a useful tool.