Health ENC coordinates a regional CHNA in 33 counties of eastern North Carolina, and its Program Manager works to build coalitions and partnerships that will address health issues identified through the regional CHNA process. Initiated in 2015 by the Office of Health Access in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Health ENC grew out of conversations with health care leaders about improving the CHNA process in eastern North Carolina.
Reasons for a Regional CHNA
As part of the Affordable Care Act, not-for-profit hospitals are required to conduct CHNAs every three years. Similarly, local health departments in North Carolina are required by the Division of Public Health (DPH) in the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to conduct periodic community health assessments as well. Local health departments have been required to submit their community health needs assessments once every four years. The particular year CHNA submissions are made by hospitals within a three-year cycle or by local health departments within a four-year cycle is not uniform across the state or region.
Additionally, although local health departments and hospitals have guidance from their respective oversight authorities on how to conduct and report the results of their CHNAs, that guidance allows for wide variations in the execution of these reports. The methodologies, specific data gathered, interpretation of the data and general approach and scope of one CHNA may have little resemblance to a CHNA in another jurisdiction or conducted by another organization.
For these reasons, health care leaders across eastern North Carolina have partnered to standardize the CHNA process for health departments and hospitals in the region. This effort will also synchronize all participant organizations on to the same assessment cycle. Combining efforts in a regional CHNA is expected to ultimately lead to an improvement in the quality and utility of population health data, the ability to compare information and interventions across geographic boundaries, and the reduction of costs for everyone involved, while maintaining local control and decision-making with regard to the selection of health priorities and interventions chosen to address those priorities. Simultaneously, it will create opportunities for new and better ways to collaborate with one another.
Upon receipt of generous funding support provided by The Duke Endowment, the Office of Health Access at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine transferred administrative and operational responsibility for Health ENC to the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation in 2018. The project continues to be guided by a steering committee representing local health departments, hospitals and other stakeholders committed to improving the health of the people of eastern North Carolina.