The Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Region sprawls across eight U.S. states, encompasses 252 counties and parishes, and is home to more than 10 million people. This region faces significant health challenges such as unemployment, poverty and income inequality, and a lack of access to affordable housing, public transportation, and quality health care.
To help address these challenges, the National Rural Health Resource Center, Delta Regional Authority, and Health Resources Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy have partnered together to create the Delta Region Community Health Systems Development (DRCHSD) Program. This program provides 12 selected rural Delta hospitals, clinics, and their communities with technical assistance to address health care needs and support local health care systems. Leaders and providers in these selected communities are working to achieve several goals, including developing procedures to consistently offer transitional, chronic, and/or behavioral health care services within clinics, strengthening the local health care delivery system, and integrating social services to address social and economic challenges.
Program staff for DRCHSD create a health status report for each community using County Health Rankings & Roadmaps data that’s shared with the community partners. The data snapshot helps participants better understand those elements that impact how long and how well residents live—such as jobs, education and housing. The snapshot serves as a template for the communities to build from. The CHR&R data and overall report becomes “a tool to start laying some of [the participant’s] foundation of why [they] need to outreach to other community organizations such as social services, public health, faith-based organizations, and so forth,” shares National Rural Health Resource Center’s Chief Operating Officer Alyssa Meller.
Using their profiles and County Health Rankings data, the program’s first-year hospital and clinic participants are energized by the data-informed look at what the health of their community looks like and the technical assistance they receive to build strong community partnerships. As the program participants move into their second and third years of the program, they move from the awareness stage to actually working with community partners to implement the changes they want to see. For example, in Dumas, Arkansas, the Daughters of Charity Services of Arkansas and Delta Memorial Hospital are partnering together to address social and economic challenges, enhance coordination of care and strengthen the local health care delivery system. Since April 2019, they have joined forces with faith-based organizations, local schools, the fire department, and more, to advance these goals and have hosted two community block parties to make residents aware of these services. Progress like this would not be possible without first understanding what their challenges are, as Meller states, “the County Health Rankings are a current, great, reliable conversation starter to share information with people that want to improve the health and well-being of their community.”