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Updated: November 6, 2022 @ 2:02 am

Staff writer
Allegheny Health Network has released results of its 2021-22 Community Health Needs Assessment, a study conducted to better understand the health-related needs of area residents.
Results of the assessment show that food insecurity, substance use disorders, barriers to health care access, health equity, chronic conditions such as diabetes and pulmonary disease, and mental health and behavioral health are among the region’s most pressing community health and wellness concerns.
CHNAs evaluate the health needs of the counties and municipalities served by a hospital, and then the hospital develops and implements plans and strategies to improve the overall well-being of patients in the communities it serves.
The 2021-22 CHNA was the first to be completed in the COVID-19 era. AHN says the report reveals a region still recovering from the pandemic, especially when it comes to issues such as food insecurity, workforce development, behavior health access and health-care inequity.
Kannu Sahni, Vice President of Community Affairs at Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network, said it is critical for AHN to address social determinants of health and health equity (diversity, equity and inclusion).
“Hospitals look at heart disease and cancer, and other health issues, but we really expanded it. We looked at those social determinants of health, equity and inclusion, knowing full well for a community to have better health outcome, all of those needs must be addressed,” said Sahni.
Many of the concerns identified in AHN’s needs assessment, such as food insecurity, have been ongoing. To address ongoing food insecurity issues, for example, AHN has opened hospital-based Healthy Food Centers, where patients can receive healthy meals and nutrition consultations.
Over the last three years, AHN has launched several programs aimed at improving health equity and addressing social determinants of health – the cultural, social and financial and other non-medical barriers that often prevent patients from receiving the care they need.
The CHNA also showed that mental health and behavioral health access are critical concerns for community members, especially for children and adolescents. Three years ago AHN introduced its “Chill Project,” a school-based mental health, mindfulness and resiliency program that places counselors at dozens of schools across the region.
The CHNA includes data on the needs of each AHN hospital facility, including AHN Canonsburg.
Specifically, AHN Canonsburg’s goals are to address social determinants of health, including transportation, access to care, substance use disorder, the chronic diseases of diabetes and heart disease, and health equity, and access to primary care physicians.
One of AHN Canonsburg’s plans is to hold health fairs, including an upcoming health fair at Canonsburg Middle School that is in the works, to provide information and screenings related to several health issues, according to Keith Zimmer, Director of Volunteer Services at AHN Canonsburg.
A recent health fair held during Canonsburg’s Oktoberfest celebration drew about 50,000 people over three days, he said.
AHN’s CHNA reports can be viewed at: https://www.ahn.org/about/caring-for-our-community/community-health-needs-assessment.html.
Washington Health System and Penn Highlands Mon Valley released the results of its joint 2021 CHNA this summer.
Among the significant health issues identified in Washington County are drug overdose deaths; coronary heart disease; lung, breast and colorectal cancer; COPD; stroke; suicide, and diabetes.
Based on the findings of the assessment, WHS and Penn Highlands Mon Valley have committed to focus on specific priorities.
WHS will prioritize reducing colorectal cancer deaths and lung cancer deaths, while PHMV will focus on addiction, stroke deaths, diabetes-related deaths, breast cancer deaths, and lung cancer deaths.
“The findings from the latest Community Health Needs Assessment are not surprising, and, basically they are what we were expecting based on the patients we have been seeing at Penn Highlands Mon Valley,” said Danyell Bundy, Director of Operations and Major Gifts for Penn Highlands Healthcare System Foundation, which commissions the assessments for the health system.
Penn Highlands Mon Valley has implemented several programs to address those needs. For example, the Community Care Network follows patients with COPD and provides them with ongoing education. Patients with diabetes can receive nutrition counseling from the clinical nutrition and diabetes staff; and the Hahne Cancer Center treats patients with lung, breast and colorectal cancer with the latest therapies and state-of-the-art equipment.
The health system is constructing a dedicated detox unit to address drug and alcohol use on the seventh floor of the hospital, which is expected to open in spring of 2023.
Bundy also noted that people delayed their regular screenings such as mammogram and colonoscopies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Men and women have been coming back because through marketing and education efforts, people in our communities recognize the importance of early detection through screenings,” Bundy said.
WHS Vice President of Strategy and Clinical Services Larry Pantuso said the hospital will continue to address other health issues, including drug use disorder, food insecurity and breast cancer, as it focuses on colorectal and lung cancers.
“Those other things didn’t go away, but we do have resources in place to address them and will continue to. We looked at (the CHNA) and said there’s a plethora of things that need addressed. Of those things, what are those with the resources most available to make a big difference in the shortest amount of time?” said Pantuso. “Colorectal and lung cancer are horrible, but early detection and treatment is a lifesaver. With colorectal and lung cancer, colonoscopies and screenings can really be a game changer for people when caught early.”
He also encouraged people to visit their primary care physician, an important step in whole patient care.
“Nobody should ever feel like they don’t have a place to turn. Nothing can replace the relationship they have with their PCP, who can provide them with a lot of information for their total well-being, whether it’s their physical or mental health,” he said.
The CHNAs are completed by the health systems every three years. The reports relied on key stakeholder input, interviews, surveys, and other data.
Pantuso encouraged residents to fill out the CHNA survey if they receive one “so we can get an accurate assessment of what’s going on in the community.”
To view the WHS and Penn Highlands Mon Valley CHNA report, visit https://whs.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Community-Health-Needs-Assessment-Final-Report-2021.pdf.
Staff writer
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