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Health systems release results of community health needs assessment

Three health care organizations — Holy Spirit Health System, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and PinnacleHealth System — chose to collaborate on a comprehensive community health needs assessment on behalf of the residents of Central Pennsylvania. Each of the organizations has a long history of providing quality programs and services to people within the shared regional service area. This collaborative endeavor represented a willingness to work together to create a common resource to identify and understand community health needs, make the most of the community's existing resources, use these common resources, and achieve economies of scale during the assessment phase.

After months of research, the results of this assessment are complete. The study also fulfills the IRS requirement for non-profit hospitals to conduct a community health needs assessment under The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The IRS mandates nonprofit hospitals to conduct a community needs assessments every three years. This community health needs assessment was designed to evaluate the existing healthcare landscape through interviews, surveys, primary and secondary data analysis, and other methodologies. The study was conducted by Tripp Umbach, a national leader in conducting health studies and assessments.

Overall, the findings show that there is a need for additional information and services that promote healthy lifestyles and make health education and healthcare easier to access. An executive summary of these findings is available for download at Each hospital's findings are unique to their service area and patient population.

Key data points gathered from the assessment:

— Downtown Harrisburg shows one of the highest rates of uninsured individuals — 27 percent — in the state of Pennsylvania; which is a major barrier to health care access.

— Dauphin, Lebanon, and Perry counties all show higher rates of overweight or obese children in kindergarten through sixth grade than the rest of Pennsylvania; specifically, in Lebanon and Perry counties, more than 17 percent of the children in kindergarten through sixth grade are obese.

— Every day in Dauphin County and the City of Harrisburg, approximately 650 people experience homelessness.

— Perry County shows a very poor ranking of 66 — out of the worst possible 67 — for education.

— The major causes of death in Pennsylvania are consistent with national trends, No. 1 is heart disease and No. 2 is cancer.

With the completion of the health needs assessment, Holy Spirit Health System, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and PinnacleHealth System will now begin to develop individual implementation plans to leverage their organization's individual strengths and resources to best address their community's health needs and improve the overall health and well-being of residents of Central Pennsylvania.

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