A health care survey of area residents is used to gain insight into residents' perception of the quality of health care available to them right in the very communities they call home.
In addition, a health resource directory is developed to promote the health services available in the local area. This overview of services is gathered through a health care provider survey distributed to all entities associated with local health care.
The summary of findings from the survey and study results is unveiled to the local residents through a community forum. These forums are public meetings where local residents have an opportunity to voice priority recommendations as input for the strategic planning process.
The local HealthConnect planning team then participates in a strategic planning retreat to develop a vision-to-vision plan to address health concerns for their community. Further studies may originate from the strategic plan that address the feasibility of providing nonexistent services or increase services that are currently limited within the local community.
Participation in the HealthConnect process encourages a sustainable plan for the future of a community's vital health care system.
The strain on a health care infrastructure is felt locally as health services are slowly leaving the State of Mississippi. It is critical to address these infrastructure needs in a timely and industrious manner.
The HealthConnect program resulted from an effort between Mississippi State University Extension Service and a network of four East Central Mississippi counties to improve access to community-based health care.
Mississippi has high rates of death, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, infant mortality, and obesity. In addition, many Mississippi counties fall well below the nation's poverty rate.
In rural America, doctors are leaving and hospitals are closing. HealthConnect can plan a critical role by empowering local citizens to take control of their health infrastructure in these uncertain times. The health, economic, and social well-being of these communities is strongly linked to the vitality of the local health care industry.
Research shows that the health care sector often provides 10 to 15 percent of the jobs in many rural counties. Furthermore, if the secondary benefits of those jobs are included, the health care sector can account for 15 to 20 percent of all jobs. In fact, hospitals are often second only to school systems as the largest employer in rural counties.
Studies also indicate that business and industry prospects look at the quality of the local school and health care systems before deciding to locate in a particular area. Retirees tend to look at a community's safety and the quality and availability of health services before relocating.
HealthConnect gives communities the tools they need to formulate a plan to address critical health care issues necessary to improve the quality of life for their residents. The plan can include such tools as community grants which in turn fosters economic development.
HealthConnect is a community interactive process designed to bring awareness and highlight the importance that health care has on communities. Local representatives from all sectors are encouraged to join the steering committee that brings this program to any community. Local health care officials, media representatives, civic leaders, community college personnel, health department officials, and faith-based representatives are just some of the many representatives often invited to participate in this effort. It is essential for any community to be inclusive in its attempt to address local health care concerns.