Initiated in 2015 by the Office of Health Access at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Health ENC grew out of conversations with health care leaders about improving the community health needs assessment (CHNA) process in eastern North Carolina. Health ENC, now a program of the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation (FHLI), coordinates a regional CHNA in 33 counties of eastern North Carolina. In addition, the Health ENC Program Director works to build coalitions and partnerships that will address health issues identified through the regional CHNA process.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, not for profit and government 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 items gathered, the interpretation of the data as well as the 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 sync all participant organizations on to the same assessment cycle. Combining efforts of local health departments and hospitals in a regional CHNA will ultimately lead to an improvement in the quality and utility of population health data, the ability to compare and contrast 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 and partner 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.