Health watch

Community assessment exposes most pressing needs for women in Taos County

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A woman’s health is her total well-being, not determined solely by biological factors and reproduction, but also by effects of work load, nutrition and stress among others.

Women’s health issues have attained higher visibility and renewed political commitment in recent decades. While targeted policies and programs have enabled women to lead healthier lives, significant gender-based health disparities remain. High health costs and lack of education/information can make health improvements for women exceedingly difficult.

Health-related challenges continue. And in Taos County, the most challenging of these for women revolves around maternity and infant care, according to the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). In the U.S., high rates of maternal mortality, infant mortality and preterm births, as well as continuing disparities in pregnancy outcomes, have prompted a number of state agencies to focus on improving the quality and continuity of care provided to women of childbearing age.

For those reasons and because such assessments are required through the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), Holy Cross Hospital (HCH) recently completed the evaluation of health needs for residents in Taos County. The hospital also developed a plan for using its services to respond to the significant community needs identified in the report.

The CHNA identifies local health and medical needs and provides an overview of how HCH will respond to those needs. This document suggests areas where other local organizations and agencies might work with HCH to achieve desired improvements and illustrates one way the hospital is meeting obligations to efficiently deliver medical services.

Data was gathered from multiple well-respected secondary sources to build an accurate picture of the current community and its health needs. A survey of a select group of local experts was performed to review the prior CHNA and provide feedback, and to ascertain whether the previously identified needs are still a priority. A second survey was distributed to the same group that reviewed the data gathered from the secondary sources and determined the “Significant Health Needs” for the community.

Findings suggest that significant health needs for women in Taos County center around “Maternal and Infant Measures.” Current data shows that OB/GYN visits in Taos County are 21.3 percent below average as compared to other New Mexico counties.

Specific experts’ comments or observations about maternal and infant care as being among the most significant needs for HCH to improve upon include the following:

• “Becoming a baby-friendly hospital, support for a lactation consultant at the hospital supporting staff to understand the importance of the parent-child relationship and how to navigate this through social/ emotional awareness.”

• “I think there are more services in Taos devoted to this like First Steps, than other issues in this survey. OB/GYN services are a different issue.”

• “The hospital needs to identify why patients choose to receive their care in other locations ... then must develop a plan to address these concerns.”

• “Kiddos are our future. Investments here save money later.”

Public comments received on a previously adopted implementation strategy in regard to maternal and infant care are as follows:

• Grant to support the baby friendly initiative, hire Jana Bailey as the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant for Taos High School’s Lunch and Learn program.

• Continue First Steps Home Visiting and parenting classes through the Children’s Trust Fund.

• Continue support of First Steps. Educate expectant parents about other community resources such as El Sueno y Los Angelitos and Infant Mental Health providers in the community. Offer regular community presentations about

related topics.

HCH services, programs and resources available to respond tothis need include:

• HCH First Steps Home Visiting program (FSHV).

• Taos Health Systems Women’s Health Institute.

• Northern New Mexico Birth Center.

• HCH Children’s Trust Fund Parenting Classes.

Additionally, HCH plans to take the following steps to address this particular health care need:

• Reopening of The Birthing Center, an outpatient facility offering both traditional and alternative offerings.

• HCH is currently in the process of developing an outpatient pediatrics program.

• HCH will continue coordinating efforts with the organizations listed below, which offer resources responding to this need by identifying how HCH services can benefit their initiatives.

• HCH will continue to increase awareness of and referrals to the FSHV program.

HCH evaluation of impact of the actions taken since the immediately preceding CHNA:

• The FSHV Program has developed a memo of understanding with the state

Children’s Youth & Family Department (CYFD) to receive referrals from this state agency. First Steps also works with two programs provided by Las Cumbres Community Services (LCCS) to provide family navigation and enhanced support for families with a need. LCCS is a behavioral health service that has been established for more than 20 years as an expert in the field of social/emotional health. The FSHV program also refers parents and family members to a variety of mental health/behavioral health counselors and therapists in the community. Collaborating agencies who receive FSHV referrals include: Valle del Sol; DreamTree Project; Golden Willow Retreat; Nonviolence Works; Tri-County Community Services, Community Against Violence and approximately 20 private practice individual therapists.

• The FSHV program is currently collaborating with the Paso A Paso network on infant mental health. The grant-funded collaboration now funds three mental health providers at FSHV, and this project will allow Taos County to have 23 endorsed providers, which accounts for more than a quarter of the total numbers in the state (80).

A copy of the full report is available for public review online at taoshospital.org and is available for inspection and copying in the hospital’s administrative office, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Holy Cross Hospital will revise its implementation efforts each year and undertake a new study to revise this report in two to three years.

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