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Community Health Programs: Matching Need With Available Services

Posted on June 30, 2020

BY FieldMed

Every community is different. 

The challenges faced by those living in Florida are very different from what are faced by those in Alaska. Community health is not immune to these nuances, nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach to providing appropriate medical care to people.  

Community health programs bridge these gaps in health care and help local public health officials address their community's specific health needs. 

What are Community Health Programs?

Also referred to as community paramedicine or mobile integrated health programs, community health programs are relatively new in the public health field, though the concepts of community-based care and community medicine have been used for centuries. 

Under these cohesive plans, those from all walks of medicine and patient intervention work together to improve the overall wellness of a specific geographic area. Medical care is delivered to patients in their homes, with paramedics and EMTs often on the front lines of community health programs. 

Community health programs are driven by metrics. Data collected during patient interactions is constantly monitored to help those overseeing a program understand successes and shortfalls in community health. 

With health care providers at all levels working together, community health programs improve the overall health and quality of life of those who participate through:

  • Education
  • Treatment
  • Routine screenings or checkups
  • Interaction with another person 

Why Implement a Community Health Program?

Community health programs better align existing medical services within a community for overall improved health outcomes.  

Medical care in rural areas has its challenges -- hospitals are often far away and access to medical specialists is limited. 

While urban areas have higher numbers of medical facilities and care providers, those living in suburbs and cities still face difficulties in receiving health care treatment. With much larger populations and demands for medical care come difficulties in securing appointments or quickly receiving treatment.  

Through the all-hands-on-deck approach of community health programs, trained medical professionals -- from the paramedic to the mental health worker -- provide broader medical care access to thesepopulations.

5 Benefits of Community Health Programs

The impact of community health programs goes far beyond providing treatment to patients. True to their name, community health programs impact an entire community. Here are 5 ways in which these programs change communities:  

1. Reduced Emergency Room Visits

Despite being meant for emergencies, emergency rooms often treat patients for non-life-threatening issues. It’s estimated that about two-thirds of emergency room visits are for non-emergencies.  

By implementing community health programs, those needing care for non-emergent conditions can receive it in their home, making ER doctors and support personnel more available for true emergency cases. 

A reduction in ER admissions for non-emergencies also decreases the overall cost of medical expenses to hospitals, urgent care centers, and individuals. 

2. Improved Patient Outcomes 

Through routine check-ins, community health workers partner with individuals who are living with chronic diseases or managing long-term conditions to make sure they’re following doctor’s orders -- even if it’s something as simple as taking prescribed medications. 

In addition, these healthcare professionals provide an additional layer of medical evaluation for a patient that affords greater opportunity for improvement of any assessed condition.  

3. Re-established Trust with the Medical Community 

Fueled in part by the immediate availability of information on sources like WebMD.com, American’s confidence in medical providers has gone down in recent years. Those distrustful of doctors and healthcare providers sometimes let conditions go untreated, which can lead to much more serious complications or even death. 

With the approach community health programs take, interactions with care providers can encourage patients to seek out treatment when necessary. 

4. A Community Medicine Approach to Connection 

Sometimes, a person who calls 9-1-1 repeatedly for the same medical emergency is dealing with a different condition altogether. 

Through the community health model, community health workers are able to visit someone in their home and identify other potential issues, such as:

  • Hunger
  • Isolation
  • Mental health conditions 

What’s more, through this form of community medicine patients are able to make a real, human connection with another person. Though difficult to measure, these connections can make all the difference in a patient’s overall well being. 

5. Metric-Driven Decision Making

Data collected through patient interactions in community health programs is invaluable.  

As all community health programs are goal-oriented, information gathered through programs can help health officials create an accurate portrait of overall community health. With this data, program officials can more accurately assess priorities or realign resources to meet the immediate needs of their communities. 

Community health program data also play a role in how state and federal governments allocate funding to tackle public health issues, such as: 

  • Obesity
  • Drug abuse
  • Smoking 
  • Community Health Programs: Improving Communities

Tackling the health issues faced by a specific community is a big job. Through community health programs, these challenges are dealt with on a one-on-one level, ultimately improving a community’s overall health and meeting needs with available services. 

Learn more about how community health programs using FieldMed can reduce drain on community resources.

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