Texas Health Resources has announced its selection to be part of one of 20 teams nationwide to participate in the American Hospital Association (AHA) Hospital community collaboration. The national collaboration aims to provide proven knowledge and resources to create effective collaborations between hospitals and community organizations with a mission to advance health equity.

The Texas Health team, including Erath County United Way and Tarleton State University, will support the Erath County Community Bridges program. The program will focus on launching initiatives to reduce depression and anxiety, increase access to healthy food, and improve resource navigation services in specific high-need areas of County of Erath.

Marsha Ingle, senior director of community health improvement at Texas Health Resources, said addressing the social determinants of health of target communities would be particularly critical to advancing health equity in these areas. .

“We really want to transform health outcomes by truly serving as a proactive and collaborative catalyst to improve health throughout a person’s life. And we do it sort of going back upstream … So it’s not about treating the symptoms, it’s about going back and dealing with what is really causing the problems. Health doesn’t happen in a bubble, it happens in an environment and we need to know what’s going on in that environment before we can tackle health. “

She highlighted how failure to address a person’s lack of access to healthy foods, for example, can ultimately lead to negative health outcomes.

“… If you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, it really increases anxiety… not knowing where you are going to eat next, or if you are going to eat next, it can really make depressive feelings worse. So these kinds of things feed into each other. So when one is present, he interacts with the others. [Resource] navigation services are a very important thing, especially in rural areas… people who need the services do not know how to access the services. There are so many ways in which the social determinants of health have a real impact on a person’s health. And that’s one of the things that’s probably the most exciting about this work, is really getting to be able to address some of these social determinants of health and see the impact that they have.

Ingle stressed that Texas’s Health’s participation in the AHA collaboration was a good fit for both organizations, as Texas Health had already made significant investments and launched initiatives focused on health equity in these high-need areas by the government. through its community health improvement team, such as resilience training programs in school districts and grocery stores inside high schools.

“The most important thing we learned from participating in this collaboration was really strategies and resources to help build our capacity to collaborate with external organizations, to improve our efforts to go upstream to address these social determinants of health. One of the things we were excited about was investing in our people – giving our people the resources and the tools or access to those tools to help them help these organizations create a strong collaboration.

She went on to add how the AHA collaboration has enabled them to tailor strategies for urban and rural areas.

“When you look through the 12 counties we serve under the impact of the community, there really is a big difference. There’s a huge difference between Dallas and Tarrant County versus Erath County… You can’t approach them the same because they’re really on different levels. And so, looking through the lens of the AHA hospital community collaboration, it really allowed us to tailor what we really had specifically for [rural areas] … What do the rural population need? And how does that differ from what’s needed in more urban counties? “

Ingle said they identified their target counties and zip codes by analyzing primary and secondary data collected through the Community Health Needs Assessment conducted every three years, as well as through organized focus groups. within the communities and community impact board of Texas Health and five regional leaders. advice.

She stressed the importance of going to communities and talking to members in addition to reviewing the evaluation data.

“[The community health needs assessment] … Sort of sets our framework around what we need to address… Your health data, your demographics, your social needs, your index, all of that is very important. But without the voice of the community, without these focus groups and without hearing from the target populations… you’re really missing out.

… The board of directors is made up of volunteers from the community… [it’s] where you really get the people who live in those communities… They have the ability to help us understand the data [and] help us prioritize data … For example, [with] COVID Vaccines There are postal codes in our service area that are significantly behind in the vaccination rate. So we look at that data and say, where are the health disparities? And how should we treat them? “

Ingle said they are currently implementing the strategies learned through the AHA collaboration in Erath County, as well as taking the strategies and applying them to Texas Health’s larger community impact work. .

“This collaboration has really laid the groundwork and is implementing the strategies they learned, and the implementation of the programs has already started. In fact, they’ve already seen some early results, so we’re really excited to see how this collaboration is developing. I think one of the things we’re also interested in about this particular program is that if it succeeds [in Erath County], to replicate this in the counties in the southern part of our community impact region, namely Kauffman and Johnson. “