October 1, 2019

It's All About the Voices

Kirk Williamson, Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance

I’m not trained in public health. Rather, I’m a recovering radio broadcaster who landed in the Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance as it was finishing up the 2017 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). Now, we’re at the bow-tying stage of the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and gearing up for the 2020 CHIP.

For me, the process is all about the voices. What are they saying? What are they NOT saying? What is the context? And, what can we do to learn more?
The first steps in this process were taken in response to the ACH’s request that we ascertain and report the priorities among the Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) especially for Medicaid recipients in our Benton and Franklin Counties. As a broadcaster, I learned early that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. We ‘flattered’ the Yakima LHIN by using much of the survey they created last year. It served us very well when implemented by Tri-Cities Community Health. It helped meet the ACH’s needs as well as forming a foundation to begin the CHNA.
A small steering committee made up of performance management staff from the Benton-Franklin Health District, myself, and representatives of our four hospitals went to work. Guided by Amy Person, MD, the bi-county health officer, we sought out a diverse mix of voices, always with the concern that we not “overload” with the easy ones to the detriment of those whose voices are harder to hear. We surveyed Chamber of Commerce Boards, as well as the law enforcement leaders of the area. Listening sessions were conducted using a bilingual facilitator and monitors gave us some valuable insight. A similar session with LGBTQ+ community members added more dimensions to our understanding. Once we had the data, Jac Davies facilitated all-hands session where we were able to focus on the challenges and opportunities before us.
The CHNA is ready for final review by the Alliance’s membership. We’ve already begun work to map community assets for the CHIP, which we believe will help the community focus its many willing, able, and enthusiastic hands on measurable and achievable improvements in the overall health of our community.