Nurses in New York’s Nassau and Suffolk counties have joined other providers in launching a collaboration aimed at boosting the health of Long Islanders.
County health departments and hospitals worked together in 2013 to identify the biggest healthcare concerns among the population of 2.8 million. They identified chronic disease, specifically obesity, mental health and substance abuse, as immediate targets.
From that assessment came the Long Island Health Collaborative, which launched this year. LIHC looks at how members from healthcare, policy, academia and community groups can work together against a common target.
By joining forces and pooling information and best practices, it will certainly allow us to extend our reach,” said Gina Kearney, RN-BC, MSN, AHN-BC, director of community education at collaborative member South Nassau Communities Hospital, Oceanside, N.Y.
Sheer numbers show obesity’s prevalence. The most recent data from New York State’s Department of Health show nearly 60% of Suffolk County adults are overweight or obese. In Nassau County the rate is 53.2%.
Obesity offers an example of how different groups can work together. One of the collaborative’s first goals has been to set up a page on its website for a walking program called the Long Island Walks Initiative. The page lists popular hiking trails on the island and their length along with walking group information and meet-up sites for dance walking.
According to Janine Logan, spokeswoman for the collaborative and director of communications for the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council, coordination is taking shape this way: Nurses across the counties will help promote the walking program by letting patients know it exists and how they can use it. Policy makers in the collaborative might work for safer streets and added sidewalks to increase safety for the walkers. Community groups such as the YMCA might partner with other groups to organize team walks.
At the center of the collaborative is the website — NSHC.org/Long-Island-Health-Collaborative — a portal for health statistics, programs, offerings and other information in one place that used to be posted to each group’s individual websites.
The first step for LIHC was to ask each group what programs they offered, such as diabetes control, exercise, nutrition classes and flu clinics. Those offerings will be grouped so consumers can get information about programs and services in their area on a single website, Logan said.
Member organizations also link to the collaborative from their websites to complete the information loop. “It’s not meant to replace anybody’s program,” Logan said. “It’s meant to present them in an easy-to-find way.”
"Grouping services fits well with the chronic care model," said Patricia Andronica, RN, MS, CDE, who has served as the Suffolk County Department of Health Services diabetes education program director since 1997.
The collaborative can help identify community resources that support individual efforts to prevent and manage chronic diseases. She gave an example of patients coming into county health service centers where they can get primary care. From there, they may go to hospitals or EDs.
"If we’re all working together and on the same page as far as philosophy of care, such as patient empowerment and support instead of the old compliance model, I think patients are more likely to receive consistent messages,”" Andronica said.
"Nurses are ideally positioned to educate and advocate for patients and will play major roles in connecting patients to services through the collaborative," she said. "The ultimate success of the collaborative will be in whether programs result in better health outcomes."
Through the website, coordinators expect to track who’s using each program and whether their health is improving, according to the appropriate measure.
Each collaborative member will have an assessment questionnaire to give to users before and after they use the program or services. Those results will be quantified and analyzed for sharing with the collaborative while protecting the anonymity of the users.
"We can slice up that data any way we want and get a snapshot of the region’s health,"” Logan said.
The collaborative gives healthcare providers a way to pool best practices and work toward goals together as well as within their own organizations.
"In many cases, we’re competitors with each other,"” Kearney said. “"There are a lot of hospitals very close together on Long Island, but this gives us all a chance to reach a lot more people than we would if we were limited to our own service area."
The collaborative also can be an example.
"This could hopefully serve as a model for other communities,”" she said.
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