Taos Community Health Needs Assessment and the Taos Health Council
In 2013, Holy Cross Hospital performed Taos’s first Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) since 2009. The assessment identified four primary areas of concern:
1. Access and Affordability
2. Substance Abuse
3. Mental Health/Suicide, and
4. Priority Populations (such as Maternal/Child health disparities, or inequities between groups)
Holy Cross Hospital conducted the CHNA in compliance with new requirements from the Affordable Care Act, and as part of its ongoing commitment to improve the overall health of our community. All non-profit hospitals are now required to assess and respond to the needs of their community on a regular basis, and make the information publicly available (you can find a copy of the Community Health Needs Assessment online at TaosHospital.org, or in hard copy at the public library and at the hospital). The hospital has committed to completing a CHNA at least once every three years, and responding to primary community health needs accordingly. Public feedback on the CHNA is welcomed.
The 2009 Taos Community Health Needs Assessment was conducted by Taos CARES, the most-recent incarnation of a Taos Health Council. Participation in Taos CARES declined due to funding cuts, so Taos went without an official health council until December 2013. However, thanks to a small amount of recently-revived funding from the Department of Health, and in an effort to respond to the health concerns raised by the assessment, Holy Cross Hospital and an assortment of community partners recently launched a new Taos Health Council effort.
Community Health Councils are a coordinated effort between health professionals, community leaders, and community members to identify and solve urgent health needs within a community. The four primary areas of concern identified by the CHNA are only a starting place – the Health Council intends to identify and work towards solving a variety of health concerns.
The 15 participants at December’s first Taos Health Council meeting included representatives from Holy Cross, Taos Alive, Taos Pueblo Head Start, Taos County DWI, Neighborhood Associations, RMYC, Taos Community Foundation, along with community members concerned about health and wellness. In addition to the four primary health needs identified by the assessment, the Taos Health Council added a few other priorities, including communicating effectively with the community; addressing social determinants of health, such as unemployment, education, and racism; and addressing trauma and violence. The most recent meeting on January 15th included representatives from the Penasco and Latir neighborhood associations as well as from Amigos Bravos and those from December.
The need to unify existing community efforts such as Crisis Systems of Care and Recovery Friendly Taos initiatives was discussed, and the group agreed to spread the word about the Community Health Needs Assessment and continue conversations about needs and solutions via local media and via listening sessions with neighborhood associations. Leaving the meeting, participants said they felt a sense of dire need, of potential, of hope, and of heart.
Taos Health Council meetings are being held at Don Fernando on the third Wednesday of each month, from 1:30-3:30pm. Everyone is invited to participate, from agency organizers to neighborhood association leaders to community members. The general public is strongly encouraged to attend and participate in the ongoing conversations about how best we can improve the overall health of our community.
The Health Council is eager for community feedback as well as participation from community members and organizations. If you’re interested in getting involved with the Taos Health Council, please contact Kyra Ryan, Holy Cross Hospital Evaluator and Grants Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 751-8929.