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October 3, 2016   Columns Articles | Outreach News | Faculty, students assess community health needs, get…

Faculty, students assess community health needs, get hands-on experience

Christopher James

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By Christopher James | October 3, 2016
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An assessment of community health needs, led by UGA faculty and facilitated by the UGA Archway Partnership, has contributed to a new urgent care center for one middle Georgia county and resulted in a scholarly article in the Journal of the Georgia Public Health Association.

Graduate students from the College of Public Health helped conduct the IRS-mandated Community Health Needs Assessment at Hawkinsville's Taylor Regional Hospital under the direction of UGA College of Public Health faculty members Marsha Davis and Grace Bagwell-Adams.

They provided the kind of expertise that isn't easily found in small communities, said Michelle Elliott, Archway operations coordinator and Archway Partnership professional in Pulaski County.

"Students come in and partner, get the local knowledge from the Archway professional and the people who are invested in the community, and really make something of value for the hospital and community," Elliott said.

The students, Ayanna Robinson and Sabrina Cherry, analyzed data from 400 surveys developed by Davis, the associate dean for outreach and engagement in the public health college. They also conducted three focus groups to get additional feedback. The team used a five-step process recommended by Georgia Watch, the state's leading consumer advocacy organization, following a study of 38 CHNAs and 29 implementation strategies across Georgia.

The assessments, which are required every three years for hospitals to maintain their nonprofit status, can be a burden to smaller hospitals, Davis said. Universities like UGA can help gather direct input from local residents, including vulnerable populations, which can lead to a more comprehensive strategy for improvement.

The assessment already supported the opening of an urgent care facility, Taylor Express Care in Hawkinsville, which served 10 patients on opening day earlier this summer. The hospital also is conducting monthly forums that provide information on health care issues like diabetes and access to prescription drugs.

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