Healthy Jacksonville initiative announced

A partnership between Passavant Area Hospital, SIU School of Medicine and MacMurray College aims to increase access to health care using a holistic approach for vulnerable or at-risk residents of Jacksonville.

Healthy Jacksonville, modeled after a highly-successful and award-winning community health worker (CHW) program in the Enos Park neighborhood in Springfield, will initiate engagement with clients on Jacksonville’s northeast side later this year. The Enos Park Access to Care Collaborative reached more than 450 individuals and helped to create self-sufficiency, improve access to care and establish neighborhood connections with community providers.

Preliminary results of the 2018 Morgan County Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) identified access to care as a significant area of concern, followed by mental health, smoking/substance abuse and sexually-transmitted disease. Access to care was also a top concern in the 2015 CHNA.

Healthy Jacksonville aims to address more than access to care – studies have shown many factors that influence a person’s health are linked to social issues, unrelated to health care.  According to data from 2017, Morgan County is ranked 77 out of 102 counties in Illinois for overall health, as influenced by environment and other factors.  That means Morgan County falls about halfway between the most healthy and the least healthy counties in the state based on factors such as violent crime and unemployment rates, as well as the number of single-parent households.

In an effort to locate the neighborhood in Jacksonville most in need of assistance, a steering committee led by Christina Rollins, affiliate vice president of operations, quality and safety, examined Passavant Emergency Department visits, looking specifically at lower acuity visits and patients who returned to the emergency department within three days for follow-up care. Results pointed to a need in northeast Jacksonville, where organizers will initially focus their efforts.

The Passavant Foundation has provided a grant of $169,000 to fund the first year of Healthy Jacksonville. A portion of the grant will support the integration of two community health workers who will have offices in the target area and be tasked with building relationships with the residents in order to help them achieve better health. Sarah Karraker, supervisor of social services and case coordination at Passavant, has been selected to supervise the community health workers and help ensure the program’s success.

Students from the social work department at MacMurray College will assist in gathering data as the project launches.

“This presents a huge opportunity for us to improve the health of those in our community,” Karraker said.