Tappahannock, Va – Area community partners have collaborated on a comprehensive community health needs assessment on behalf of the residents of the Tappahannock and Northern Neck region.

Riverside Health System, as a not-for-profit hospital organization, is required by the IRS as part of the Affordable Health Care Act to lead a Community Health Needs Assessment every three years at each of its hospital locations. The assessment is designed to evaluate the current healthcare conditions as well as identify health needs that are not being met.

"The Community Health Needs Assessment gives us a process to identify issues and create a healthcare delivery system that is specific to the needs of the community we serve. Through our local board of directors, Riverside is continually evaluating the health of the community.  This provides us the opportunity to work with local groups, on a more regional scale, to improve the health of our neighbors" said Liz Martin, VP and Riverside Tappahannock Hospital administrator.

In the first of two phases, Riverside Tappahannock Hospital (RTH) surveyed various community partners, which ranged from government agencies like law enforcement, local health departments, and county schools to health related businesses and local chambers of commerce. They were asked to identify important health problems facing residents and health services they felt needed strengthening. The survey data, along with Virginia Department of Health data, was compiled by Community Health Solutions to give RTH a health profile of the region.

The study focuses on the RTH service area which falls within Essex, King and Queen, King William, Richmond, Westmoreland, Northumberland, and Lancaster counties. Among the issues mentioned:

  • health concerns such as obesity, chronic disease, mental health conditions, substance use, and Alzheimer's Disease.
  • community services in need of strengthening: aging services, behavioral health services, transportation, health care coverage, and long term care services.  

 The report also compiled key health statistics about the region from the Virginia Department of Health:

 Demographic Profile. Compared to the Commonwealth of Virginia as a whole, the region is more rural, older, and proportionally more Black/African American.  The region also has lower income levels and proportionally more adults without a high school education.

Mortality Profile. The leading causes of death were cancer, heart disease, and stroke. The age-group death rate was higher than the statewide rate for adults age 45-64, and lower than the statewide rate for seniors age 65+.

Maternal and Infant Health Profile.  The region had a higher rate of non-marital births.  Infant mortality rates were higher than the state's in five of the seven counties: Essex, King William, Lancaster, Richmond and Westmoreland. The teen pregnancy rate was higher than the statewide rate in all counties.

Adult and Child Health Risk Profiles.  A significant number of adults may have health risks related to nutrition, physical activity, weight, tobacco, and alcohol. It is also estimated that large numbers of children are not meeting recommendations for healthy eating, physical activity and healthy weight.

Uninsured Profile.  An estimated 16% of nonelderly residents were uninsured at any point in time in 2011. Among both children and adults, the large majority of uninsured residents were estimated to have income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.

Medically Underserved Profile. Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs) and Medically Underserved Populations (MUPs) are designated by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration as being at risk for health care access problems. All counties in the region have been fully designated as MUAs.

"Now that we have this important data, RTH and other community partners can collaborate on a plan to begin addressing these issues and improve the health and well-being of our community," Liz Martin said.

 To view the complete Community Health Needs Assessment report, visit riversideonline.com/rth.

Published: October 14, 2013