TAHOE/TRUCKEE — Impacts of the federal Affordable Care Act and mental health and substance abuse issues are among criteria the hospital wants to assess as it embarks on an updated health plan for the community.
Set to launch this month, Tahoe Forest Health System’s 2014 Community Health Needs Assessment survey will gather statistics and feedback on health issues facing residents living in the hospital district, including those served by Incline Village Community Hospital.
“It’s being done at a time when access to health care has changed dramatically … we know many more people are now insured and have better access to health care services,” said Caroline Ford, executive director of Tahoe Forest’s Wellness Neighborhood. “So, what does that mean in terms of demand for services? It will allow us to better understand what the health status is of our communities.”
The survey will have two facets: a mailer to select households to participate via a secure website, and a phone call. Invitations will be mailed around June 15, and the phone calls, lasting about 20 minutes, will start around 10 days later.
“It’s important that our residents … feel safe in responding to this survey,” said Shelia Leijon, Community Outreach Coordinator for IVCH. “We want to reach as many people as possible to inform them that it’s not only OK to take the call, but important ... so that collectively we can offer programs and services to meet the real health needs of our community.”
For Incline, the goal is to obtain 400 completed surveys. Residents in Truckee, Tahoe City, Kings Beach and other California areas also will be polled.
All answers to the random surveys are confidential, and participants are anonymous.
Surveyors may ask about access to health care, exercise and physical activity habits, diet and immunizations. Other likely topics include alcohol and tobacco usage and cancer screenings.
Ford said the questions are derived from standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are universal across the country.
While the questions will be similar, Ford said the district is focusing on a few subgroups that are likely most in need — particularly seniors, in terms of transportation, disability and chronic disease; and mental/behavioral health, in terms of proper access to services across the North Shore.
“We’d really like to understand the barriers to those types of care,” she said.
Once surveys are done, public meetings will be held likely in September in Incline and on the California side for residents to learn the results and discuss goals to focus on beyond 2014.
“We’ll be looking at benchmarking what the important health indicators are for the region,” Ford said.
That benchmark would be in the form of a fresh Community Health Improvement Plan, the last of which was created in 2011 after a similar survey process took place.
Back then, the plan focused on five key areas: access to primary care/medical home; immunizations (adult and child); ethnic disparities; mental health; and substance abuse, with additional considerations toward women’s health, oral care and weight.
On top of programs Tahoe Forest formed to address those concerns, the 2011 improvement plan also led to the creation of the Wellness Neighborhood, which Ford was hired to lead in 2013.
A new health plan is important, Ford said, because it can be used as a model by which to guide children.
“Changing one’s behavior and actually seeing a shift in health status indicators is a slow process — prevention is a slow process,” Ford said. “But influencing our next generation, our adolescents and school-age children, the habits of preventing something, we want that to happen at a young age, at the very beginning of life.”
An advisory committee is helping with the assessment, Ford said, a process required by California for critical access hospitals, which Tahoe Forest (and thus, IVCH) is.
Among others, the committee includes representatives from the Family Resource Center of Truckee, North Tahoe Family Resource Center, Project MANA, Nevada County Public Health, Placer County Health and Human Services and Sierra Senior Services.
Residents who are not surveyed and want to offer feedback that will be separated from the random survey in Truckee and the California side of the lake can email Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org. For Incline/Crystal Bay, email Leijon at email@example.com.