By Judith Crabtree, Executive Director, Kanawha Coalition for Community Health Improvement
Our journey to community health improvement began in 1994 with the formation of the Kanawha Coalition for Community Health Improvement (KCCHI). Ahead of their time, community leaders representing health care, behavioral health, social services, economic development, and local foundations, recognized the value of a collaborative approach to better meet the health needs of residents. KCCHI’s mission is to identify health risks and coordinate resources to measurably improve the health of the people of Kanawha County.
Part of KCCHI’s success and sustainability can be contributed to the level of leadership on its Steering Committee. Membership consists of Chief Executive Officers and top level leaders of member organizations which allows for speedy decisions and quick responses to urgent and emerging needs.
From its inception the Kanawha Coalition has been committed to engaging residents in the process of identifying the top health issues facing our community. KCCHI conducted its first community health assessment (CHA) in 1995, long before IRS regulations for hospitals concerning community needs assessments, public health accreditation requirements for local health departments, and an increased emphasis by charities to fund locally identified issues. KCCHI completed its seventh triennial CHA in March 2017. Through the process of continuous improvement KCCHI’s assessment methodology has been enhanced over the years to be even more inclusive.
KCCHI has traditionally formed volunteer workgroups to address the top 3-4 health issues identified through its CHA. Over the years our efforts have resulted in spin-off collaborative groups that are now addressing some of these identified issues such as childhood obesity and substance abuse. At KCCHI’s Steering Committee retreat in 2015, members revisited our Coalition’s process and purpose. This year, for the first time, KCCHI will not carry out its work through individual issue-based workgroups but will instead convene a stakeholder group who will be charged to develop and implement a comprehensive Kanawha County Health Improvement Plan.
Our Communities of Excellence journey is helping us to more deeply explore our community, its unique challenges, its strengths, how far to reach and who to involve. As we develop our map forward, we are excited to see where our journey takes both our community and our Coalition.