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Healthier Sussex County brings together Delaware hospitals to curb disparities in care

February 22, 2013


 

“Community Connections” spotlights the many ways in which hospitals serve their communities. AHA members can learn more by visiting
www.ahacommunityconnections.org.


Three Delaware hospitals have teamed up on an initiative to create a “Healthier Sussex County.”

Leaders from Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, Nanticoke Health Services in Seaford and Bayhealth Medical Center in Dover last year launched a collaborative that focuses on identifying and addressing health disparities; identifying and addressing health education; and making a positive impact on health behaviors.

“As we focus on trying to improve the health of our communities, it is obvious to all of us that we have to reach beyond the four walls of our individual organizations to really have a meaningful impact,” says Jeffrey Fried, president and CEO of Beebe Medical Center.Diabetes and mammography.


The hospitals are focusing on treating diabetes and breast cancer during the first year of the initiative.

“We wanted to focus on issues we knew we could make a measurable impact on,” says Nanticoke Health Services CEO Steven Rose.

In Sussex County, diabetes rose from 9.9% to 11.6%
between 2008 and 2012. One of the project’s goals is to increase the percentage of patients who complete a lab test that reflects their average blood sugar over the previous three months, providing important information regarding the quality of blood sugar control, severity of diabetes and impact of treatment. The second goal is to increase attendance and completion of existing diabetes education and self management programs.

For breast cancer, the initiative focuses on mammography education and awareness efforts for minority women age 40 and older. Screening is especially important because Sussex County has an incidence of breast cancer higher than the national average with 128.3 cases per 100,000 women.Involving key stakeholders.
To make Healthier Sussex County successful, the hospitals’ leaders knew two things were critical – support from hospital leadership and community involvement.

“We decided that we all [three hospital CEOs] needed to be involved in the initiative from the get-go, and I think that’s made a big difference,” says Terry Murphy, president and CEO of Bayhealth Medical Center. The three hospital CEOs have attended many of the project’s meetings and have created an environment for their staff to work together to come up with strategies and solutions.

“We recognize that we’re living in a world of limited resources so when we work together and share resources, we can have a more meaningful impact on the community,” Beebe Medical Center’s
Fried says.

But it’s not just the hospitals working together. The group is hosting breast health education seminars at local community events and is working on strategic initiatives with organizations including the Komen Foundation, Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Delaware Public Health and the American Cancer Society.

“I think it has to be that way,” says Nanticoke’s Rose. “It’s very important that we have all of the key stakeholders involved in the project.”

On the diabetes initiative, partners include Delaware State University, Diabetes Coalition and La Red Health Center. Another important partner is the state’s public health department.

Don Post, manager for the diabetes prevention and control program at the state’s division of public health, praised the hospitals for their leadership on this important initiative.

“Everyone came up with objectives that they all agreed to work on, and they’ve worked very well together on it,” says Post.

Although Healthier Sussex County is only in its first year, the hospital leaders believe they can use the framework to tackle other important health issues.

“We think this model can work exceptionally well for other organizations, and we’ll continue to develop and evolve it into other areas of health improvement,” says Bayhealth Medical Center’s
Murphy. For more information on Healthier Sussex County, click on: http://tinyurl.com/a7dfn6h.