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Akron Children’s CHNA reports put priority on behavioral health, wellness

12-13-2022 (Akron, Mahoning Valley, Ohio)

Pediatric mental and behavioral health services and community-based health and wellness are priorities of Akron Children’s Hospital for the next three years, after the hospital recently completed its fifth Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). Akron Children’s contracted with the Center for Community Solutions to facilitate data collection and analysis for the CHNA.

“A key take-away from the community input we solicited through this process is that kids’ mental and emotional heath is top of mind for so many,” said Bernett L. Williams, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer and Vice President of Community Initiatives. “This was loud and clear in every conversation and across every community within the region.”

Many participants expressed concern about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s mental well-being. Community leaders cited widening gaps for students in both academic and social-emotional skills, with particular concern about children from low-income families, those with disabilities and students of color. Families described heightened stress and anxiety within households, and concerns about increasing gun violence in communities.

Akron Children’s aims to address these issues through strategies such as integration of behavioral health services into its primary care network, a behavioral health workforce development program and youth suicide prevention education and awareness.

Community-based health and wellness goals will focus on identifying and addressing disparities in preventive health care, addressing food security, and improving access to wellness services through the hospital’s school-based health care network.

Here, the hospital will rely on data, such as on vaccination rates or missed well child visits, to tailor strategies to some of its more vulnerable populations.

“What sets this CHNA apart from previous ones undertaken is three cross-cutting commitments that must be embedded in everything we do,” added Williams. “These commitments are advancing health equity, improving access to health care and fostering resiliency. Many of these efforts are already underway.”

The CHNA is conducted every three years in accordance with IRS and Affordable Care Act requirements for nonprofit hospitals.   

Input must be solicited from a broad spectrum of the community, including vulnerable/underserved populations, as well as individuals with public health expertise. Then hospitals must develop and carry out an implementation strategy around the needs identified as priorities.

The assessment footprint covered 12 counties within Akron Children’s service area, including Ashland, Columbiana, Lorain, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Richland, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties. Reports for the facilities serving both the greater Akron and Mahoning Valley communities are available here. The priorities are the same for both regions.

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