Highlight on North Dakota: three priorities highlight health needs assessment

Although numbers indicate that by the end of March 2016, more than 20,000 North Dakotans had signed up for private insurance or renewed their coverage on the marketplace under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148), local public health officials still had plenty of residents’ health needs to address. Access to affordable care, chronic disease, and obesity/poor nutrition/lack of exercise were three health concerns identified as priorities in the Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health (BBPH) agency’s strategic implementation plan for 2016 through 2018, issued April 12, 2016.

A previously completed survey in 2012 had identified five areas of concern: pediatric obesity, child poverty, binge drinking, substance abuse, and affordable housing. These key concerns served as a guide for public health efforts in Bismarck at that time.

Needs assessment. In 2015, BBPH partnered with local hospitals CHI St. Alexius Health and Sanford Health in Bismarck, North Dakota, to complete a community health needs assessment with online and paper surveys. As a result, the community health needs assessment identified and ranked the top 10 concerns for Bismarck in 2015: lack of affordable housing, chronic disease, access to affordable health care, obesity, access to mental health services, child abuse, homelessness, coordination of care between health care providers and services, drug use, and stress.

Priorities and strategy. In turn, BBPH chose access to affordable health care, chronic disease, and obesity as its priorities for 2016 through 2018. In order to improve access to affordable health care, BBPH noted that it would conduct outreach and educational activities to promote access to affordable health care opportunities for minorities, underserved, and vulnerable populations. As for addressing chronic disease, BBPH also stressed that it would educate individuals to be more active in health care choices. Finally, in order to address obesity, poor nutrition, and the lack of exercise, BBPH made it a priority to support healthy behaviors at work.