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Quarter-million dollar grant will study region's health care needs

By , - Last modified: December 23, 2013 at 10:12 AM

The Health Care Council of the Lehigh Valley has landed a $276,000 grant to continue to assess the health care needs of people in the Valley. The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust, a fellow Health Care Council member, funded the grant that will be used to develop a 2016 community health assessment.

The new study comes on the heels of a 2013 community health assessment as required by the 2010 federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Hospitals in the Lehigh Valley came together almost three years ago to form the nonprofit HCCLV to do the 2013 community health assessment. Members include Lehigh Valley Health Network, St. Luke's University Health Network, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, Sacred Heart Healthcare System and KidsPeace Mental Health Network.

The 2013 and 2016 studies will be used by the hospitals to individually create plans for improving the health of people in the Lehigh Valley.

"Bringing together the expertise and resources of the region's health care systems in a common cause under the HCCLV umbrella, we intend to create a demonstrable, sustained positive impact on health care of the residents of the Lehigh Valley," said Ron Dendas, program officer for the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandated nonprofit hospitals to do a community health needs assessment by 2013. The assessment's purpose was to identify leading causes of death and illness in each community that can be improved by better access to care, promoting healthy lifestyles and behaviors and addressing social causes of health disparities.

The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust also funded the original assessment.

"This is huge, seeing the hospitals work together on issues that are affecting each of them," Dendas said.

The 2013 assessment disclosed that the Lehigh Valley is a great place to get health care, he said.

"The profile really talks about the overall health of our region," Dendas said. "One of the things that it tells us so far is that our region is one of the best places to live life to the fullest, as our mortality rate is stellar in the Lehigh Valley."

Although Lehigh Valley residents are living longer, area hospitals are concerned that when the results are further scrutinized, the region won't fare as well. Dendas said, for example, the assessment shows that Lehigh Valley's health care systems are good at taking care of the sick but are not good at keeping them from getting sick.

HCCLV hospitals are looking at ways to address issues such as health literacy, nurse-family partnership, helping people to enroll in the marketplace insurance exchange for the Affordable Care Act and providing federal health care centers for the underinsured.

The recent grant to HCCLV also will be used to hire a project manager to coordinate services and resources of its member organizations. The project manager also will oversee several planned community-based participatory research projects and assessments, including developing the framework for the 2016 community health assessment.

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Jennifer Glose

Jennifer Glose

Reporter Jennifer Glose covers health care, Berks County and other topics. She can be reached at jenniferg@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 111. Follow her on Twitter @jenniferg_LVB and read her blog, “Networking,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/networking-blog.

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