NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) consistently assesses the needs of its communities and those of the underserved, to ensure that its community benefits programs are in alignment with the health needs of the communities it serves. In addition to collecting and analyzing available quantitative and qualitative data on mortality, disease incidence, utilization of and access to health care services, NorthShore established a mechanism in which to actively seek the involvement of our community and public health leaders in an ongoing manner to ensure that our analysis reflects the current public health needs in our area.
Community Needs Assessment Methodology
In order to produce a comprehensive health assessment, NorthShore utilized a range of available data sources. Public health statistics on mortality, maternal, infant, and child health, emotional well-being and access to care were obtained from the Illinois Department of Public Health website. The most recent data available is from 2006. As public health data often lags by several years, and is only available at the state, Metropolitan Statistical Area, or countylevel, NorthShore also identified sources of zip-code level estimates of disease incidence metrics and socioeconomic status. This data assisted in understanding local levels of need and variation across our specific service area. (The zip-code level metrics included data from Thomson/Reuters from 2008, a health care information company, which creates estimates based on Census data, Medicare and third party insurance claims, and a nationally-representative household survey that includes self-reported health status, health care utilization, and self-report diagnoses.) NorthShore also identified zip-code level rates of preventable hospitalizations based on Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) definitions. Preventable hospitalizations served as an indicator of the quality and depth of the outpatient management of chronic diseases, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. The causes that trigger hospitalization were identified using the Illinois Hospital Associations COMPData database.
Based on the compilation of these sources, NorthShore found that mortality and non-obstetric hospitalizations are driven predominantly by heart disease, cancer, stroke, pneumonia, diabetes and psychiatric conditions. Areas of greatest socioeconomic need within NorthShore’s service area are concentrated in northern Lake County and the North Chicago neighborhoods. NorthShore also identified differences across the service area in the self-reported health status and diagnosis of disease, and compared overall rates to Healthy Goals 2010 (where applicable).
NorthShore utilizes multiple mechanisms for seeking out the collective voice of the community in understand the unmet health needs. For example, each NorthShore hospital has a community advisory committee that includes a range of community leaders. These leaders represent local public health agencies, non-profit organizations serving low-income residents, faith based groups, business and civic leaders. They advise each hospital and NorthShore on services or initiatives from a community perspective and provide strategic recommendations for community benefits programs. NorthShore’s key senior administrators, as wells as, its community relations staff maintain strong working relationships with local leaders, public health agencies, township officials and social service agencies not represented in the community advisory committee. In their role as community liaison, the community relations personnel serves as point of contact for NorthShore’s involvement with community requests. In addition, community relations personnel coordinate the hospital presidents’ role in NorthShore advocacy programs.
Senior administrators at NorthShore also participate regularly in outreach to local leaders. NorthShore physicians and staff play an equally important role in identifying health trends and needs through their leadership, board participation and involvement in local, regional and national organizations.
Information related to the health assessments and findings are communicated at the department level to NorthShore leadership. NorthShore will continue to track both quantitative and qualitative sources of public health information as it becomes available, as well as feedback from community leaders. Community health needs data is used in our annual strategic planning processes. Stakeholder participation is critical and greatly influences NorthShore’s prioritization and execution of its community benefits programs. In addition, collaboration with local leadership allows NorthShore to detect urgent and growing needs that may be under represented or absent from aggregate data, in a timely and effective manner. Lastly, collaboration with local leaders has facilitated the development of signature programs, such as Be Well-Lake County and real time solutions to critical health challenges.
Strategic Approach for Meeting Community Health Needs
NorthShore implements a three-fold strategy to address the health needs of the communities that it serves as follows:
- Community benefits programs, signature initiatives and partnerships will address a need identified in the community health needs assessment conducted by NorthShore.
- Community benefits programs, initiatives and partnerships will address a need identified by the community.
- Community benefits programs, initiatives and partnerships will be aligned with the guiding principles outlined in Advancing the State of the Art of Community Benefits for Nonprofit Hospitals. The guiding principles are: disproportionate unmet health-related needs; primary prevention; seamless continuum of care; build community capacity and, community collaboration.
All of NorthShore’s community benefits programs, initiatives and partnerships will be documented in a report that provide the date(s), describes the initiative, identifies assessed need(s) met, highlights outcomes and identifies guiding principles met. NorthShore will continue to place priority on providing community benefits and services in the communities located nearest to our hospitals, where we believe we have the greatest capacity and responsibility to serve.