Report highlights Windham County health care priorities

Chronic disease, behavioral health and preventive health care are at the top of health care providers’ lists after a community health needs assessment by the Windham County Healthcare Consortium.

“The results point to areas that need improvement in terms of the status of the health of our community,” said Mona Friedland, executive director of the Windham Hospital Foundation. “This information should be useful to funders ... as our health care community begins to develop targeted activities and programs to address those unmet needs in our region.”

The health care providers participating in the consortium are Windham Hospital, Day Kimball Healthcare, Natchaug Hospital, Generations Family Health Center, United Services, VNA East, Northeast District Department of Health and Community Health Resources. Funding for the assessment came from Jewett City Savings Bank.

Priority areas identified by the assessment include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, colorectal disease, depression and suicide prevention, tobacco cessation, nutrition, flu shots and sleep issues.

“(The assessment) gave us confirmation (that) many of the programs we are already working on align with community needs,” said Sara Brandon, vice president of marketing and communications for Day Kimball Healthcare. “Day Kimball is expanding our behavioral health services with recent additions to the medical staff, and we have plans to enhance our support programs.”

The independent research firm, the Center for Research and Public Policy, conducted the assessment in September. The last assessment done in the region was in 1995.

Friedland said the next step for Windham Hospital would be to seek funds to address the areas that will be identified by its board and leadership as top priorities from the assessment.

“The final step will be the development of implementation plans by the individual organizations,” Friedland said. “The deadline for this activity for the hospitals is September 2013.”

According to Susan Starkey, the director of health at the Northeast District Department of Health, an $83,000 Community Transformation Grant was recently awarded to her organization to enhance its ability “to reduce chronic disease and reduce health disparities.”

“NDDH will coordinate capacity-building activities including strengthening a county-wide coalition, conducting a needs-assessment that meets the requirements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and conducting a policy scan to identify gaps in policies, programs and infrastructure,” Starkey said.

According to a joint statement by the eight member organizations, Windham County health care organizations will be able to focus their resources to ensure the greatest benefit to the people they serve while they develop a blueprint for health and wellness programming.

“We continue to seek ways to help northeast Connecticut residents live healthier lifestyles,” Brandon said. “It’s why we are here.”

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