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Findings from the Community Health Needs Summit and Assessment

In the late fall of 2023, The Natchitoches Regional Medical Center Foundation conducted a second comprehensive community health needs assessment following a similar assessment in 2017. They partnered with Stratasan to collect, quantify, and interpret data from community focus groups, an online survey, and a community Summit on Health.

The assessment focused on resource allocation, informed decision making, and collective action to improve health in Natchitoches Parish. Working closely with area physicians, community health organizations, local agencies, churches, and NRMC Associates, the goal was to identify and prioritize significant health needs of the community. Specifically, the project provided an opportunity for everyone to come together and discuss existing infrastructure and ways as a community we can work together to facilitate health improvement in the parish.

In the assessment, areas of strength included lower teen births, higher adults with some college, and a lower population per mental health provider ratio. Comparing the health status data of Natchitoches to Louisiana parishes and similar counties in the United States, the findings showed that the Natchitoches community did worse, and significant lifestyle gaps were identified. Natchitoches rates 46th out of 64 parishes, and as a state Louisiana was dismally ranked the 50th healthiest state out of 50 states. There is an opportunity to act and improve measures within our parish by focusing on key areas of concern such as the high number of adult smokers, high obesity rates, low food environment index, low physical activity, high percentage of children in poverty and in single parent households, and high preventable hospital stays. Natchitoches also has a higher incidence of cancer, a low number of primary care physicians per population, high prevalence of diabetes, higher drug overdose rate, higher suicide rate, and lower overall life expectancy.

The key findings from the assessment include: 1) The need to create a “Culture of Health” that will permeate throughout the community and engender total commitment to health improvement. 2) The awareness that there is a correlation between those with the lowest income and education having the poorest health outcomes. 3) Even though a given measure may show overall good health in the community, subgroups in census tracts northeast of the city face significant health challenges. 4) To meaningfully impact health in the area, a wide range of organizations and citizens must pool resources to create a successful partnership realizing that as a parish, there are many assets to improve health.

“As a health system, NRMC is pleased to have been part of the Community Health Needs Assessment initiative. As a community, we have work to do, but there is a great deal that can be done to help move our community toward being one of the healthiest parishes in our state. From this assessment, we have the data our community needs to maintain focus on health priorities,” noted Kirk Soileau, Chief Executive Officer of NRMC. “I want to thank the NRMC Foundation for the leadership role they took to bring this project to fruition and their generous financial support to do so. I’d also like to thank our physicians, community leaders, other healthcare organizations and agencies, our associates and physicians, and community members who participated in this important work. Together, we know where we are today and where we need to be. We must work diligently to improve the quality of life in our community by making health and wellness one of our greatest priorities.”

For more information about the Community Health Assessment and Summit, please go tonrmchospital.org/foundation/community-health or contact project lead Tom Matuschka, NRMC’s Vice President of Business and Philanthropy, at 314.214.4520.

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