New approach needed for health care assessment

There is a way to ensure that all voices heard and that islanders are equitably engaged.

It was such a relieve last month when the result for Proposition 1 – establishment of a public hospital district (PHD) No.5 on Vashon Island started coming in. The voters of Vashon-Maury Island immensely (with 71% voting in favor) decided to form a hospital district after shooting down the same proposal twice in previous years.

The proposition created a public hospital district and a board of commissioners with the authority to oversee the island’s health care facilities. The PHD gave islanders a chance to prioritize the services that should be offered in the clinic, and the commissioners the ability to decide on how best to spend the levy that will be imposed on taxpayers. This might also be an opportunity for islanders with the commissioner’s leadership to start thinking of health beyond just access to health care and presents a possibility for Vashon community to shape the health outcomes of the island.

I am proposing that a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach should be used to design and conduct the health need assessment required for the prioritization of health care services provided in the island clinic. CBPR transforms the way assessments are being conducted by prioritizing shared decision-making power and effective collaboration. It will ensure that the voice of everyone on the island is heard and that islanders are equitably engaged. CBPR practices should be used at every phase of the need assessment starting from the set of questions to data collection and analysis, reporting and development of recommendations and next steps based on the assessment findings.

An equitable approach to services offered is also necessary, with emphasis on the island’s elderly and child population. The Vashon Health Care District should make health equity a continued shared vision and value.

The Protect Vashon Health Care statement after the election result stated that “voters approving a PHD sends a clear message they want access to health care services on the island.” Since health is a result of a complex web of influences, including social, economic, political, physical, behavioral, and biological factors, it is high time for us to start thinking of the islanders’ health in this context. What are some steps the commissioners can take to ensure that the complete well-being of the islanders is a priority? What are the ways to integrate behavioral health into the health systems on the island?

The island is one of the communities where residents have high access to the physical environment and sound social environment, but there are other socioeconomic factors that determine our health that are hindering residents from achieving their full health potentials. The commissioners should embrace advocacy in addressing these factors. Perhaps they can start with a better transportation network like the need for dedicated bike lanes.

This is the beginning of a new era for health care on Vashon, we can concurrently start a new era for health through a holistic, preventative approach.

— IB Osuntoki