SOUTH BEND -- Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center on Wednesday announced the results of its community health needs assessment, including an action plan that will guide the hospital in creating and funding certain initiatives over the next few years.
The report identified diabetes, prenatal care and senior services as three areas of significant concern for many area residents, said Al Gutierrez, Saint Joseph Regional president and chief executive.
As a result, the Mishawaka hospital has identified future action plans to assist area residents in obtaining information, knowledge and access to programs and classes related to these pressing health-related needs.
"Some initiatives are under way already," Gutierrez said, "and others you will be hearing about soon. We will seek to provide services where assistance is most needed."
The hospital reviewed and analyzed more than 2,000 survey responses -- paper and online -- completed by area residents between August and October 2011.
The survey consisted of 60 questions designed to gather information about the individual's health, insurance coverage, and how to help the community.
Hospitals are required by federal law to evaluate the overall health status of the communities they serve every three years.
The last Saint Joseph Regional survey found accessibility to health care services and affordability of health care and medications as top community concerns.
After the most recent results were tabulated, the hospital assembled 10 focus groups to consider possible initiatives, Gutierrez said.
"Our team took the results and had dialogue on the actions we should take," he said. He described the hospital's plan in each area.
Diabetes: There is a large contingent of diabetic patients in the community who do not know how to manage their disease in a healthy manner, the assessment found. So the hospital wants to offer classes and check up on those most at-risk.
"Diabetes is more than handing out free glucometers and telling patients to monitor their blood sugar levels better," Gutierrez said. "It's one thing to hand out glucometers if they aren't going to test themselves."
Prenatal care: When last calculated, Gutierrez said Indiana ranked 39th in the country in its infant mortality rate.
"A lot has to do with moms in the region getting prenatal care too late," he said. So the hospital hopes to be part of a larger area consortium to assist expectant mothers in finding prenatal care information and programs. "It's an opportunity where we can offer navigation that starts early in the process." Gutierrez said.
Senior services: The community would like to see a greater offering of wellness programs for senior citizens, as well as navigators to assist seniors with their questions.
"Now that health care reform is the law of the land, they are fearful of what they hear in a variety of areas, terms of what the truth is with their coverage," Gutierrez said. Saint Joseph Regional plans to invest in people who will be guides to the seniors to help them understand and obtain services and assistance.
Staff writer Heidi Prescott: