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Morris Hospital assesses health needs of counties in service region

Will implement plan to address 4 priority health areas identified

For years, Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers has participated in the development of a Community Health Needs Assessment and Plan in cooperation with the Grundy County Health Department, Education Service Network and University of Illinois Extension.

Now, in compliance with provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Internal Revenue Service regulations for tax-exempt hospitals, the hospital has completed its own Community Health Needs Assessment for the first time.

Like previous years, heart disease, cancer, stroke and lung disease continue to surface as the leading causes of death in the communities served by Morris Hospital.

“We weren’t surprised by the findings,” says Sue Szumski, a registered nurse in the Education Department at Morris Hospital. “These are primarily the same issues that have been identified in previous studies, an indication that it takes time to change the health of a community.”

Szumski says one of the most alarming facts is that in the counties served by Morris Hospital (Grundy, Kendall, La Salle, Livingston and Will), over one-third of adults are overweight and close to one-fourth are obese. Of those five counties, Grundy County has the highest percentage of overweight and obese adults at 68.7 percent. That’s higher than the state rate of 64 percent.

“Obesity used to be viewed as something that caused diabetes and other chronic illnesses,” says Szumski. “Now it’s recognized as an independent health issue.”

Morris Hospital’s 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment was put together using a number of sources, including information gathered during interviews with community stakeholders, as well as data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, U.S. Census reports, County Health Rankings, Illinois Youth Survey, CDC National Health Statistics, Illinois State Police, and discharge data from Morris Hospital. Here are some of the other key findings:

• The death rate for colon/rectum and lung cancers in Grundy, La Salle, Livingston and Will counties exceeds the state average.

• At 85.7 percent Grundy County has the highest percentage of adequate prenatal care among the counties served by Morris Hospital, exceeding the state percentage of 80.2 percent.

• Of the counties served by Morris Hospital, Grundy County has the highest incidence rate for all cancers (546.7 per 100,000 persons). Grundy County also has the highest incidence rate of colorectal cancer (84.7) and esophageal cancer (7.9). Will County has the highest rate of prostate cancer (169.2) and La Salle County has the highest rate of breast cancer (132.8).

• In the Morris Hospital service area, 29.7 to 31.5 percent of area residents obtain a flu shot. This is lower than the state rate of 34.6 percent.

• The percent of smokers in Livingston (28.7 percent), Grundy (23.3 percent), La Salle (21 percent) and Will County (19.6 percent) is higher than the state average of 18.8 percent.

In response to the findings, Morris Hospital has created a three-year implementation strategy that focuses on the four priority health areas identified in the study: access to care, chronic disease, overweight and obesity, and health behaviors and prevention. The plan will be reviewed and updated annually.

“The community should be pleased that their local community hospital is concerned about the health of the whole community, not just the patients who walk through our doors,” says Szumski. “This is exactly what our mission is all about – to improve the health of area residents.

“We already offer many programs to help the community maintain and improve their health. Our implementation strategy in response to the community health needs assessment is going to take us one step further.”

For example, Morris Hospital is in the process of enhancing its diabetes education service by pursuing certification as an accredited diabetes center. Earlier this year, the services of a psychiatric nurse practitioner were added to improve access to mental health services for patients seen at the Morris Hospital Healthcare Centers.

Later this summer, the hospital will be offering a new nutrition and fitness program to its employees and the community.

An entire copy of the 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment and Implementation Strategy is available for public viewing on the hospital website,

Paper copies are available by calling (815) 705-7009, or by filling out the form under Contact Us on the hospital’s website and typing “Community Health Needs Assessment” in the questions/comments field.

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