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Penn State Health supports central Pennsylvania’s health needs through latest assessment and updated implementation strategies

Penn State Health is committed to understanding and addressing the needs of the communities it serves. Through its most recent Community Health Needs Assessment (CNHA), the health system has determined three priority areas that are most needed to improve the overall health of residents of Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon and Perry counties:

  • Mental health,
  • Health equity
  • Wellness and disease prevention

To deliver a meaningful impact on the region, Penn State Health’s Community Relations Department led the development of five task forces consisting of employees across all Penn State Health hospitals, Penn State College of Medicine and community partner organizations to create and execute strategies to address health needs. These teams continue to implement critical programs designed to improve mental health, including a focus on groups such as LGBTQ+ and marginalized populations. Health equity programs cover top-ranked concerns that include access to care, social determinants of health, racism, diversity and transportation. To address disease prevention and wellness, the Penn State Health team is working to improve food access and nutrition across the region, help prevent substance abuse, address and prevent chronic disease, and create health education programs that include teaching about the benefits of physical activity. To achieve these goals, expand access to services and maximize impact, the team is deploying Penn State Health resources and partnering with notable groups across the region to implement and enhance such programs as:

  • Working with Penn State Health’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute (PPI) to continue mental health signs and symptoms training
  • Naloxone distribution and education, as well as comprehensive drug safety and education programs, drug take back days and boxes, lock boxes and DisposeRx drug disposal packet distribution
  • Expanding the Berks County Veggie Rx program to Lebanon and Lancaster counties to enhance access to nutritional foods and fresh produce
  • The Pantries and Wellness Support (PaWS) program, which continues to expand cardiovascular screenings and health education into additional food pantries and community locations across a six-county region
  • Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center’s Medical Outreach Clinic to bring free health services to community members in Harrisburg
  • Support of the bike share program at Hershey Medical Center into its surrounding communities, as well as educational outreach that addresses bike and pedestrian safety from Penn State Health’s Pediatric Trauma and Injury Prevention Program
  • Disease-specific support groups, health screenings and outreach
  • Continued vaccine clinics to make preventative medicine available to marginalized communities

“The programs we are developing, improving and continuing to scale reflect our commitment to improving the health of residents across the region,” said Ashley Visco, community health director for Penn State Health. “Our promise is not just helping to improve immediate health, but to build and provide long-term, sustainable resources that best serve our communities and address health disparities.”

All non-profit hospitals are required by the Affordable Care Act to conduct a CHNA every three years. For this CHNA cycle, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Penn State Health Hampden Medical Center, Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center, Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center, Penn State Health Rehabilitation Hospital and PPI participated in the strategic analysis of the needs of their communities, along with coordination from the Department of Public Health Sciences at Penn State College of Medicine.

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