WHI’s UNITE group releases community health needs assessment and investment plan

In 2021, for the third time, Michigan Medicine, Saint Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, and Saint Joseph Mercy Chelsea hospitals collaborated on a joint community health needs assessment (CHNA) and investment implementation plan for Washtenaw County.

The needs assessment is part of a strategic process used to identify the most pressing health needs of a community. And every three years, all tax-exempt hospitals are required to conduct one, per federal regulations. 

In addition to conducting the CHNA, nonprofit hospitals must publish a report and accompanying implementation plan that outlines their strategy for addressing identified health needs.

While each hospital could do this alone, Washtenaw County’s health system leaders chose to collaborate—in effect, stretching limited resources, avoiding duplication of efforts, and maximizing the impact of their investments in their shared geographic region.

Since 2015, the WHI’s UNITE group has led this work, assembling and assessing data from surveys and focus groups. Group members also partner with the Washtenaw County Health Department and other important local stakeholders to get a full picture of health needs and where health systems should focus their efforts to improve population health.

UNITE is co-chaired by a representative from each parent organization: Alfreda Rooks at Michigan Medicine and Reiley Curran, Community Health Improvement Manager at Saint Joseph Mercy Chelsea.

At the WHI’s November steering committee meeting, Curran, alongside Shekinah Singletery, interim director of community health and wellbeing at Saint Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, presented highlights from the new three-year joint implementation plan.

The three prioritized needs for Washtenaw County are mental health and substance use disorders, obesity and related illnesses, and pre-conceptual and perinatal health, “needs that have remained priorities, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Singletery. 

Singletery explained that the group is also focused on social determinants and influencers of health—in particular, housing, poverty, and social isolation—so that their public health interventions will make a larger impact.

“We don’t just want to look at the symptoms of the problem,” said Singletery, “but also address the root causes of the problem through policies, systems, and environmental changes.”

Curran noted that WHI members can help the UNITE group by keeping the group informed about their work and giving input on new ideas for scaling up UNITE’s work.

“There is strength in numbers,” said Curran, “and we always need to coordinate our efforts in whatever way we can.”

The implementation plan outlines the goals and objectives for each health need, and describes what each hospital will do to address the need and evaluate its impact from 2022 to 2024.

You can view the latest CHNA report and implementation plan on both Michigan Medicine and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System websites.