Join us Feb. 23 for a conversation on healthcare (column)

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Jenny Englerth

9:02 a.m. ET Feb. 16, 2017

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Through a community health market research study, commissioned by Family First Health and conducted by TrippUmbach, we’re able to see key findings that paint a detailed picture of challenges in York and provide a starting point for the conversations
Sean Heisey, York Daily Record

Family First, York Daily Record and WITF will cosponsor the free forum at Martin Library.

What makes a community healthy – or not healthy? At first glance, it’s easy to say some communities are healthier than others because their residents are trying harder, or making better individual choices. But many factors affect the health of a community: Health literacy, the number and location of health care providers, costs for insurance or medication and even access to transportation.

What are the factors that affect health in York?

In the past year, Family First Health commissioned a community health market research study, conducted by TrippUmbach. The report, available in full at familyfirsthealth.org/community-health, identifies overall community health needs and gaps in local health services.

For example, the poverty level in York City for adults 18 to 64 years old is more than 3.5 times the rate for adults in York County. For these individuals, basic needs like rent, groceries and utilities may take priority over getting a check-up or paying for necessary medication.

Understanding some of these barriers to good health can provide a starting point for the conversations needed to ignite change. How do we as a community address the needs that we’ve identified? How do we identify and leverage the strengths in York City?

At Family First Health, we believe a great place to start is listening to the experiences of those in our community. Although the report provides us with data to be able to understand the broad picture, it’s imperative for providers to also fully understand the reality of our patients’ lives outside the exam room.

One possible idea to begin these conversations is to engage community health workers, individuals who are trusted members of their community and understand its needs, challenges and strengths. By serving as a connection between health/social services and the community, community health workers build a relationship that goes beyond the confines of a doctor’s office and allows a provider to better understand the factors that affect health.

We can also begin by simply asking questions: What is your experience in traveling to a doctor’s appointment or a specialist or to get lab work, without access to a car? Have you had trouble finding a behavioral health care provider? Is the health care system difficult to navigate or understand? What encourages you to or prevents you from eating healthy foods?

It is through these questions that we invite individuals to share with us their experiences — not in a punitive manner or a way that promotes finger pointing, but in a forum where we can best understand the localized tension or gaps between a community’s health goals and the reality of poor health that many city residents experience.

We’ve also found that providers are often unaware of the assets that exist in the community. Who better to learn from than the residents of our city?

When we engage our community assets, local change is possible.

That’s why we’re inviting you to participate in a Community Health Conversation, to be held at Martin Library on Feb. 23, 2017. Working with York Daily Record/Sunday News and WITF, we’re hopeful we’ll attract a diverse group of individuals who can share their experiences. We’re also inviting a panel of local individuals to share about programs like the community health worker model.

We see this as the first step in community-driven change, and the first of many community conversations focused on health, each a safe space for open dialogue.

Doors open at 6 p.m. Feb. 23, with the event running from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The event is free, but we ask that you please RSVP online at bit.ly/FFHCommunityHealth.

I hope to see you there.

Jenny Englerth is the CEO for Family First Health, a federally qualified health center serving York, Adams and Lancaster counties.

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Join us Feb. 23 for a conversation on healthcare (column)

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