Cameron Foundation releases 2018 community health needs assessment

New report reflects focus on social determinants of health

The Cameron Foundation has published a new regional health needs assessment for the Tri-Cities area, offering important information for use by policy makers, service providers and health advocates. The report incorporates new data to provide deeper insight into the needs of areas showing high concentrations of poverty and low educational attainment across the Tri-Cities region, and it reveals disparities in life expectancy. Overall, it offers a fuller picture of community health by incorporating social determinants of health indicators.

The 2018 assessment was developed in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Health, Petersburg and Hopewell health departments, Institute for Public Health Innovation, and Cameron Targeted Solutions. It is available for viewing and downloading at https://camfound.org/about-us/publications.

“This new report reflects an important shift that The Cameron Foundation made in 2014, when it decided to begin looking at health through a broader lens beyond health care interventions. Research shows that health starts in people’s homes, neighborhoods, workplaces and the larger community – long before the point where a person needs health care,” said J. Todd Graham, president of The Cameron Foundation. He added, “While we may associate health outcomes with access to quality health care and health behaviors, this 2018 assessment reminds us that these are only half of the equation. The other 50% of factors linked to health outcomes are social determinants of health, such as social and economic factors and the physical environment.”

The assessment examines quantitative and qualitative information across the seven localities in The Cameron Foundation’s service area, including Petersburg, Colonial Heights and Hopewell; the counties of Dinwiddie, Prince George and Sussex; and, where possible to obtain localized data, the portion of Chesterfield County lying south of Route 10. The Foundation last published a health needs assessment of its service area in 2013.

This report incorporates the community health needs assessments conducted by the Virginia Department of Health, Petersburg Health Department and Hopewell Health Department for the cities of Petersburg and Hopewell. Additionally, The Cameron Foundation, the partner health departments, Institute for Public Health Innovation, and Cameron Targeted Solutions jointly performed the research on the remaining localities.

Two new sections were added to the 2018 report, including the Vulnerable Populations Footprint and the Census Tract Life Expectancy Maps. The Vulnerable Populations Footprint identifies areas within localities that show lower rates of educational attainment combined with high poverty. The life expectancy maps, which often serve to give a snapshot of a community’s overall health and wellbeing, are presented to show how long residents of specific communities can expect to live, in comparison to others. Dr. Michael O. Royster, vice president of the Institute for Public Health Innovation, explains, “By overlaying the information in these two sections, we are better able to see the connection between social determinants and overall health, and prioritize our work within a city or county to address health disparities within that community through public policies and health interventions.”

The Cameron Foundation’s 2018 Health Needs Assessment outlines seven key strategies that are essential to translating the report into action to achieve optimal health within the region:

  1. Convene diverse partners, including communities experiencing health disparities and agencies and organizations that work on the social determinants of health, to review and interpret the report’s findings.
  2. Collectively identify overall health priorities, including disparities.
  3. Develop collaborative strategies based on the relative contribution of health factors to health outcomes; make a commitment to achieving health equity.
  4. Focus on the social determinants of health and their distribution across populations and geographic areas as integral strategies.
  5. Focus primarily on policies, systems and environmental changes in order to create sustained improvements that have a population-wide impact.
  6. Build on existing interventions and fill gaps to maximize scarce resources and avoid duplication.
  7. Evaluate progress and outcomes on the overall population, and for specific communities and populations facing health disparities; use evaluation results to refocus efforts.

Graham concluded, “This 2018 health needs assessment contains a wealth of information that is specific to the Tri-Cities area. It will assist us in directing Cameron’s philanthropic resources for improved health outcomes. Equally important, it is available to our community partners, such as government officials, nonprofit leaders and health practitioners, to help them tailor their efforts. This data can inform our collective work to close the gaps where there are health disparities and ultimately, to foster a healthy, vibrant region.”