Major Meeting Next Week to Finalize MGH’s In-depth Community Health Assessment

May 10, 2012
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A new health assessment being led by the neighborhood and conducted by Mass General Hospital (MGH) has attracted a lot of interest in Revere over the last several months and will be the subject of a major meeting next week.

MGH will hold the important community meeting on May 9th at 5:30 p.m. in the Rumney Marsh Academy. There, they will present the fruits of several months worth of work and will ask for critical public input.

“It’s been exciting so far in Revere,” said Leslie Aldrich, associate director for the MGH Center for Community Health Improvement. “We’ve done this in the past, but it’s been less rigorous and it wasn’t so much a community-driven process. To have a community process driven by the public will be a first and it will be very neat.”

Under a mandate by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that came about due to the new federal health care law, all non-profit hospitals have to conduct thorough Community Health Assessments (CHAs) in the communities where they are present. Those assessments have to be in strong collaboration with the community and must involve numerous meetings and community approval of the final results.

The purpose is to identify community health priorities, and then develop a plan to attack those priorities. Under the IRS mandate, MGH must conduct the assessment and finish it within the same taxable year. With that in mind, MGH has embarked on a very ambitious process already in Charlestown and Chelsea – a process that includes meetings, small group interviews, quality of life surveys, and deep community outreach.

In Revere, the process got rolling last fall with the appointment of an active steering group of about 35 residents. RevereCARES Director Kitty Bowman said the timeline has been daunting for the CHA, but it has also been a good opportunity for RevereCARES at the same time.

“Our coalition in general sees this not only as an opportunity to evolve into a healthy communities coalition, but also to expand its community participation and to get new members,” said Bowman. “That’s important because as we expand, we need help to become a real healthy community.”

Just a few months ago, RevereCARES and MGH officials began fanning out into the neighborhood. They held focus groups with a variety of different groups, including groups of elderly residents, Latino residents, Muslim community business leaders, and the Cambodian community. At the same time, MGH distributed a community health survey in three languages – on paper and online.

For that, they seemed to have broken some records.

“The survey rate of return was amazing,” said Danelle Marable of MGH. “We have more than 700 surveys back now and we were only aiming to get 400 back.”

Bowman said that the surveys, focus groups and the 35-member steering committee has been exciting for RevereCARES because it has opened up new doors in new community – as the CHA has to be representative of the entire community’s health needs.

“The exciting part of this is RevereCARES has tried to include Revere’s new population – our Latino and Muslim population in particular – but we’ve only had limited success,” she said. “Through this process, though, we’ve been able to push into those communities with focus groups that will help the coalition reach the whole community and not just part of the community. We’ve never had a problem reaching all the youths because we’re in the schools, but it’s always been difficult to get into the adult communities.”

With all of that legwork now done, MGH and RevereCARES said they are focusing a great deal of effort onto the May 9th community forum. That, they said, will be critical for the final say on what the most important health needs are in Revere.

“At that meeting, we will be presenting our findings and facilitating a discussion in English, Spanish and Portuguese,” said Bowman. “We’ll be asking people to identify what they think are the most important health issues facing the communities. That information will be taken by the Planning Committee and be used to establish the health priorities.”

Finally, the MGH trustees must review the final plan and approve it. The process must be completed by September, which is the end of the taxable year for MGH. Aldrich said she expects the MGH trustees to review the plan in August.

“The one real positive thing for us is having the relationships and trust already built in Charlestown, Revere and Chelsea with our existing coalitions,” said Aldrich. “That is very big and an advantage that takes about a year’s worth of work away.”

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