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Assessment identified key community health needs

Lowell General Hospital, in partnership with the Greater Lowell Health Alliance, recently commissioned the University of Massachusetts Lowell to conduct an assessment of community health needs for the Greater Lowell area, which includes the towns of Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Dunstable, Lowell, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, and Westford. The purpose of this assessment included evaluating the overall health of residents by involving a broad spectrum of community members, identifying the top health issues and strengths and weaknesses of the healthcare network, recommending actions to address priority concerns, and providing information that informs a community process to build consensus around strategies to improve the health of Greater Lowell residents.

Information was primarily collected through interviews with six key informants and 14 focus groups with 113 participants, and secondary data sources included demographic, socioeconomic, and public health data. The top health problems that were identified in the focus groups and interviews and supported by public health data include:

  • mental health
  • substance abuse
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • respiratory diseases (e.g., asthma and
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • cardiovascular disease
  • Hepatitis B in the Cambodian community

Applying the assessment's findings to community offerings in 2014 Lowell General Hospital is leveraging these findings to help craft its 2014 community benefit program. Some highlights of 2014's plan include:

Chronic Disease

  • Increase screening and educational offerings to address chronic diseases like asthma, cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes and stroke
  • Provide grant funding to support chronic disease self-management programs for diverse cultures

Mental Health

  • Increase prevention and education programs targeting at-risk youth
  • Provide grant funding to support depression screenings throughout the community
  • Help support community organizations working to decrease homelessness

Substance Abuse

  • Increase number of tobacco cessation programs
  • Offer education about the dangers of alcohol abuse and drunk driving at local schools
  • Provide grant funding to support increased synthetic drug abuse awareness and prevention

Community Health Improvement

  • Provide workforce development opportunities for local students
  • Actively participate in collaboration and capacity building with local task forces, organizations and coalitions

While chronic disease, mental health, substance abuse and community health improvement are the hospital's main concentration areas for 2014, Lowell General is also focused on a variety of other important topics like access to care, breast health, cultural competency, domestic violence and sexual assault, emergency preparedness, health literacy, healthy eating and active living, and parenting and prenatal education.

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