The Tamaqua Area Community Partnership has selected St. Luke's Hospital and Health Network's Community Health Department to conduct a community health and resource assessment throughout the Tamaqua area.

Hollie Gibbons, MPH, RD, LDN, manager, disease prevention initiatives, a community health manager at St. Luke's Hospital and Health Network, has recently contacted local business, government, education, health care, and community leaders to discuss the implementation of the "Community Health Improvement Task Force".

"We received several proposals for the community health and resource assessment project", said Pat Freeh Stefanek, chair of the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership. "After reviewing the proposals, we chose St. Luke's to fulfill our assessment, not only based on their plan but also because they are Tamaqua's primary healthcare provider with a hospital and physician and outpatient practices throughout the area."

The Task Force will develop strategies and plans to improve health conditions and address gaps in healthcare access throughout the Tamaqua area.

A Community Health Assessment Survey will map and identify the specific health related issues and resources that are available to Tamaqua area residents, both within the Tamaqua area school district and within a 20 mile radius.

The survey will be conducted in a variety of ways to gather information, such as location of medical service providers, available facilities (such as hospitals, clinics, etc.), what health related programs are available (such as weight loss, drug counseling, school programs, etc), along with the location and availability of playgrounds, hiking trails and exercise facilities throughout the area. In addition, the quality and affordability of these health resources will be assessed.

"The comprehensive Community Health Assessment will create a 'Community Health Report Card' that will allow us to evaluate the effectiveness of the resources that are currently available to the area, as well as identify gaps in healthcare access as defined by the residents of the area," said Gibbons.

"We'll be conducting focus groups, telephone interviews and in-home interviews to assure a broad representation across the community. We'll be contacting community organizations, such as churches, support groups, day care centers, business associations, service groups, and senior centers, etc., for support of this project."

All information collected by this study will be held in the strictest confidence. Each interview, approximately 400, will take about 45 minutes to complete and participants will be reimbursed $10 for their time to complete the survey. Any individual who identifies a need for a service will be referred to a local or regional healthcare provider and will receive advice from the health educator to facilitate their access to services.

The end product of this community health assessment will be a comprehensive plan of proposed changes, strategies to make changes, a timeline for changes, and projected costs of the changes. The data gathered will be used to establish a five-year strategic plan which will be shared with the community to seek their input in identifying solutions.

The Tamaqua Area Community Partnership encourages residents and service providers alike to participate in this assessment for a comprehensive community healthcare plan that will benefit everyone throughout the Tamaqua area for years to come.

For more information on this community health and resource assessment, contact the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership at (570)668-6899 or Hollie Gibbons at (610) 954-2301.