New Ulm Medical Center
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Community health planning focuses on obesity, substance abuse, mental health
For the last several years, New Ulm Medical Center has partnered with area schools to provide the DAAN curriculum in second, third and fourth grade. DAAN provides education on physical activity and nutrition – such as the lesson this student participated in that taught children how to read food labels. Overweight/obesity education for area children will continue to be a focus for NUMC as it is one of the goals identified in its Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).
If you would like to participate in a community health needs focus group, or for more information about New Ulm Medical Center’s Community Health Needs Assessment planning, contact Carisa Buegler at 507-217-5188.
New Ulm Medical Center has been studying the community’s most pressing health problems, with help from public health officials, local schools, park and recreation and other organizations. They have come up with New Ulm’s three main health challenges in 2013: overweight/obesity; substance abuse; and mental health.
The next step, now getting underway, is to develop a three-year plan that details roles of the hospital and other groups to make improvements.
New Ulm Medical Center has followed a similar process for a number of years. The health issues that affect the most people and have the most serious consequences have remained fairly constant, said Carisa Buegler, director of the New Ulm Medical Center Foundation & Community Engagement.
This year, for the first time, the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) is a federal requirement for private, nonprofit hospitals under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In their three-year plans, hospitals must explain how they are addressing community health needs. They must also talk about needs that are not being addressed, and why.
“We looked at data from Brown County and the schools,” Buegler said. “Overweight and obesity affects the most people, and it has a big impact on chronic health conditions. We know, for example, that 79 percent of the adults who were screened in 2009 in The Heart of New Ulm heart health project were overweight or obese.”
The four-year-old Heart of New Ulm program (heartsbeatback.org) has scored major successes in community participation, as well as weight loss and reducing hypertension, cholesterol levels and heart attacks among participants. Health coaching is provided for those who are at risk for heart attacks. New Ulm Medical Center has also partnered with other community organizations and local schools on childhood obesity initiatives.
Still, overweight/obesity continues to top the list of local and national health issues, and Buegler said continued effort and awareness are needed to keep things moving in the right direction.
Substance abuse, mental health
About 50 percent of motor vehicle injuries and deaths in Brown County are related to alcohol, Buegler noted. That compares to 32 percent statewide. “Drug and alcohol abuse also affects a significant portion of our population, and causes serious family problems, along with potential problems in one’s employment and health status,” she said. “Survey data shows that our youth have higher rates of alcohol and marijuana use, engage in heavy alcohol use more often, and drive a motor vehicle more often after drinking, than the state average.” This behavior by our youth is influenced by the adults in our community, and so efforts to address this issue will need to address both the youth and adults.
Mental health concerns are also prevalent. Surveys of New Ulm area middle school students reveal that significant numbers of local teenagers have been teased, often feel sad and have had suicidal thoughts, she said. During a recent 12 month period, New Ulm Medical Center saw around 900 patients in the clinic who had a depression related diagnosis – approximately 7 percent of the adult population will experience major depression in any given 12 month period, according to national reports.
“Mental health issues unfortunately carry a stigma, which often results in a person not receiving treatment, despite that fact that it is a very treatable condition,” Buegler said. “New Ulm Medical Center certainly can play a role in increasing the community’s awareness of depression, and in identifying and treating persons suffering from depression, especially given the expertise amongst our physicians and mental health staff.”
Now that the biggest needs have been defined, Buegler and the hospital’s Community Engagement Council are convening focus groups of interested community members.
“Our next steps are to have conversations, form more partnerships, develop a shared vision and define appropriate roles for community organizations,” she said. “By this fall, as a community, we’ll have developed a shared plan to address these issues and to support our current efforts.”
Source: New Ulm Medical Center - Health Edition
Reviewed by: Carisa Buegler, director of Community Engagement for NUMC
First Published: 02/25/2013
Last Reviewed: 02/25/2013