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Changing the Paradigm of the Emergency Medical Services


Can the Emergency Medical Services Evolve to Meet the Needs of Today?

Click here to view the PowerPoint PDF

The emergency medical services (EMS) provide a means of rapid treatment and transportation to definitive care for those people who suffer immediate life-threatening injuries or illnesses (Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, n.d.; Mayer, 1980). There are a number of models across the country and the world that are seeking to redefine EMS in a way that is more meaningful in both of its missions, public safety and public health (Washko, 2012). However, financial constraints and overzealous regulations serve only to pigeon-hole EMS into the decade of its birth and refinement, the 1970s, by restricting incentive and growth and limiting the efficacy of directed research and its application towards the much needed restructuring of EMS.

In this brief literature review, I will examine the roots and context of EMS, its mission and current application, as well as possibilities for research, growth, and development. It is important to recognize that EMS is a grand resource for both public safety and public health, especially in light of the growing body of legislation that officials are using to redefine the current health care system within the United States. As we continue to develop EMS, other nations will look to us as they have in the past to adopt and adapt our system for use throughout the world.

A Brief History of Contemporary EMS

There were many forms of organized out-of-hospital medical aid provided throughout history from the biblical good Samaritan to the triage and extrication from the battlefields of the Roman conquests and the Napoleonic wars through the U.S. Civil War and every major war and conflict in U.S. history; however, it was not until the advent of combined mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and closed chest massage (what we know today as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR), enhanced 9-1-1 for use by the public in summoning emergency services, and the release of a 1966 white paper prepared by the Committee on Trauma and Committee on Shock of the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, that we have the EMS system that we are familiar with today (Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1996). It was about this time that the Department of Transportation (DOT) was given purview over EMS at the national level with the passage of the National Highway Safety Act of 1966.

During the 1970s, EMS had transitioned from mostly untrained funeral home drivers to providers trained by emergency physicians to treat many of the life-threatening scenarios that prevent people from seeking medical attention at hospitals, such as traumatic injuries, cardiac arrest, and many breathing problems. Since this time, there have been a number of concerted efforts and official recommendations by the DOT to augment and improve the delivery model of EMS throughout the country (Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, n.d., 1996, 2008). As early as 1996, the DOT published the vision of the future of EMS:

Emergency medical services (EMS) of the future will be community-based health management that is fully integrated with the overall health care system. It will have the ability to identify and modify illness and injury risks, provide acute illness and injury care and follow-up, and contribute to treatment of chronic conditions and community health monitoring. This new entity will be developed from redistribution of existing health care resources and will be integrated with other health care providers and public health and public safety agencies. It will improve community health and result in more appropriate use of acute health care resources. EMS will remain the public’s emergency medical safety net. (Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1996, p. iii)

Even as today’s emergency rooms, operating suites, and trauma centers throughout the world are overflowing capacity with an increasingly deficient workforce, EMS is expected to answer the call for help as the front-line of a fractured and inefficient health care system (Kellermann, 2006; Mason, Wardrope, & Perrin, 2003; O’Meara et al., 2006; Washko, 2012).

Hampered Efforts

EMS is known throughout the United States as rapid responders in times of medical and traumatic emergencies; however, ever-increasingly, EMS is being used as the front-line alternative to primary care for the non-emergent uninsured and under-insured patient population (Heightman & McCallion, 2011; Washko, 2012). There is a limited number of ambulances, EMTs, and paramedics available at any given moment, which is subject to financial constraints, and non-emergent use of these resources prevents their availability for when a true emergency arises. Secondary to the mission of providing care to the public, EMS is also needed to provide services for fire department and police department operations, such as firefighter rehabilitation at fire scenes and tactical medicine in concert with bomb squads, S.W.A.T. teams, and hazardous materials teams.

EMS resources are costly, and overburdened systems are negatively affected when these resources are misused, especially by those who are unwilling or unable to pay for the services.

Financial Impact

According to the DOT (2008) EMS workforce report, employers reported difficulties in retaining EMTs and paramedics partly due to the inability to raise wages or provide better fringe benefits. The report goes on to show that EMTs and paramedics suffer a wage disparity when compared to other similar public safety ($12.54/hr vs. firefighters: $26.82/hr; police officers: $22.25/hr) and health care workers (licensed vocational nurses and licensed practical nurses: $16.94/hr; respiratory therapists: $21.70/hr; registered nurses: $26.28/hr). In the five years leading up to 2005, the average wage for EMTs and paramedics grew only by $0.29/hr. It is important to note that these numbers do not take cross-trained firefighters and police officers into consideration.

Furthering the concern of wages, as the DOT (2008) report shows, is the lack of growth potential within EMS as most systems lack the ability to provide a meaningful career ladder to the EMTs and paramedics in their employ. These circumstances together create the scenario that EMS is an underpaid dead-end job causing high attrition as most EMTs and paramedics either suffer from burnout, culminated psychological stress from the job, or use the profession as a stepping stone into other health care fields, such as nursing, respiratory therapy, or physician-level medicine.

The DOT (2008) report provides evidence that transport-based reimbursement policies are likely to blame for the unusually low profit margin in EMS (Heightman & McCallion, 2011). The Medicare and Medicaid programs, as well as many private insurers, require documentation that the transport of a patient be medically necessary before they will pay; however, the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates are very low and do not cover the cost of EMS operations. To complicate the matter, EMS providers are mandated by law to provide care to the public regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay (Heightman & McCallion, 2011). EMS is subsidized by either taxes or insurance reimbursement or some combination of the two.

Broad Mission

In addition to providing for the mundane care and transportation of the ill and injured and performing ancillary duties for the police and fire departments as noted above, EMS is tasked with disaster preparedness – preparing for the major incident that is highly unlikely to occur but would be devastating to lives and infrastructure if it does. That is if the EMT or paramedic is employed for an emergency service. Many of the EMTs and paramedics, today, are employed by private ambulance services who transport non-emergent patients to and from skilled nursing facilities and doctors’ offices. The multitude of these EMTs and paramedics are not considered when planning for emergency response schemes.

I consider EMS to be the caulking used to fill many of the fractures and gaps in today’s health care system. If it occurs outside of the hospital, then EMS will take responsibility, yet, they seldom get paid for their actions.

Proposed Solutions

There has been much talk over the past few years regarding the efficacy and efficiency of EMS, and all agree that the current definitive model is inefficient with, at best, questionable efficacy. Washko (2012) describes in detail the number of EMS schemes and their shortfalls. In his article, Washko is correct in stating that transport-based reimbursement policies fail to reward the greater EMS community for their willingness to take on further responsibility within the two scopes of operation: public health and public safety.

Wingrove and Laine (2008) explore the opportunity for training and equipping the most experienced paramedics for a public health centered role delivering community-based care. These community-based paramedics are described as augmenting the traditional emergency responder role with opportunities to direct patients to more appropriate care, such as doctor’s offices and urgent care centers instead of hospital emergency departments when appropriate to their condition. This model was researched recently in Australia with good results, and is now a recommended career path both there and in the United Kingdom (Mason, Wardrope, and Perrin, 2006; O’Meara et al., 2012). In the U.S., EMS professionals feel a responsibility to participate in disease and injury prevention efforts, and research on models that utilize specially-trained paramedics to perform home safety inspections, hazard mitigation, and reduce the risks of injuries to children have proven effective (Hawkins, Brice, & Overby, 2007; Lerner, Fernandez, & Shah, 2009). Hennepin Technical College, in Minnesota, now offers certification in Community Paramedic training when the recommended curriculum is provided by an accredited college, according to Wingrove and Laine.

Other, more immediate (but, arguably, less meaningful) solutions, as Washko (2012) describes, are incorporating operational tactics that better utilize ambulances by attempting to predict call volumes and locations based on historical data, the high-performance model. This, however, creates high-call volume, less resource driven scenarios with ambulances idling on street corners awaiting the next call. As mentioned earlier, attrition is a significant concern in EMS and these tactics are demanding on providers physically and psychologically leading to high incidences of burnout and injury (Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, n.d., 2008).


The standard operational benchmarks of EMS – response times and mortality and morbidity of cardiac arrest – are antiquated measures and typically distract policymakers when they are considering financial incentives for EMS (Heightman & McCallion, 2011; Washko, 2012). EMS needs to evolve with the changing health care system, and I feel that it is poised, specifically, to help address disparities in health and health care. Using the community-based paramedic model of health care delivery, we can address many public health concerns, provide for public safety, and still maintain the traditional role of emergency responder. The community-based paramedic model will provide an acceptable alternative to the options that lie ahead.

The economics of health care is a reality that must be considered by every EMS operation when approaching growth and change. As long as EMS can fill the gaps in the current health care system, it will be worth the money required to subsidize a robust, well-trained, and well-equipped contingent of emergency medical professionals. In the meantime, though, EMS agencies will have to seek more efficient models that maximize reimbursement while minimizing costs.


Committee on Trauma & Committee on Shock, Division of Medical Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council. (1966). Accidental Death and Disability: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society. Washington, D.C.: Author.

Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.d.). A leadership guide to quality improvement for emergency medical services (EMS) systems (Contract DTNH 22-95-C-05107). Retrieved from http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/ems/Leaderguide/index.html

Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (1996). Emergency medical services: agenda for the future (DOT HS 808441 – NTS-42). Retrieved from http://www.nremt.org/nremt/downloads/EMS%20Agenda%20for%20the%20Future.pdf

Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2008). EMS workforce for the 21st century: a national assessment. Retrieved from http://secure.naemse.org/services/EMSWorkforceReport.pdf

Hawkins, E. R., Brice, J. H., & Overby, B. A. (2007). Welcome to the World: Findings from an emergency medical services pediatric injury prevention program. Pediatric Emergency Care, 23(11), 790-795. doi:10.1097/PEC.0b013e318159ffd9

Heightman, A. J. & McCallion, T. (2011). Management lessons from Pinnacle: Key messages given to EMS leaders at the 2011 conference. Journal of EMS, 36(10), 50-54.

Kellermann, A. L. (2006). Crisis in the emergency department. New England Journal of Medicine, 355(13), 1300-1303. doi:10.1056/NEJMp068194

Lerner, E. B., Fernandez, A. R., & Shah, M. N. (2009). Do emergency medical services professionals think they should participate in disease prevention? Prehospital Emergency Care, 13(1), 64-70. doi:10.1080/10903120802471915

Mason, S., Wardrope, J., & Perrin, J. (2003). Developing a community paramedic practitioner intermediate care support scheme for older people with minor conditions. Emergency Medicine Journal, 20(2), 196-198. doi:10.1136/emj.20.2.196

Mayer, J. D. (1980). Response time and its significance in in medical emergencies. Geographical Review, 70(1), 79-87. Retrieved from http://www.ircp.info/Portals/22/Downloads/Performance/Response%20Time%20and%20Its%20Significance%20in%20Medical%20Emergencies.pdf

National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, Pub. L. No. 89-563, 80 Stat. 718 (1966).

O’Meara, P., Walker, J., Stirling, C., Pedler, D., Tourle, V., Davis, K., … Wray, D. (2006, March). The rural and regional paramedic: moving beyond emergency response (Report to The Council of Ambulance Authorities, Inc.). Retrieved from http://www.ircp.info/Portals/22/Downloads/Expanded%20Role/The%20Rural%20and%20Regional%20Paramedic%20Moving%20Beyond%20Emergency%20Response.pdf

Washko, J. D. (2012). Rethinking delivery models: EMS industry may shift deployment methods. Journal of EMS, 37(7), 32-36.

Wingrove, G. & Laine, D. (2008). Community paramedic: A new expanded EMS model. Domain3, 32-37. Retrieved from http://www.ircp.info/Portals/22/Downloads/Expanded%20Role/NAEMSE%20Community%20Paramedic%20Article.pdf

Discussing Cost-Effective Analysis

This week I was directed to provide insight to the cost-effective analysis (CEA) provided by Penner (2004) in A Cost-Effective Analysis for Proposed Alternative Interventions to Post-Procedure Surgical Pain Reduction. Within the CEA, three alternative treatments (guided imagery, hypnosis, and biofeedback) are proposed to reduce post-operative pain. The CEA is used to determine the efficiency that each intervention offers comparably to each of the other two alternatives.

I developed a PowerPoint™ presentation [click here] to provide a summation of the CEA and visually present the information for a quick rationalization of the chosen intervention. I will explain each slide of the PowerPoint™ as it pertains to the CEA.

The Cost-Effective Analysis

The CEA provided by Penner (2004) describes the various costs and benefits of using guided imagery, hypnosis, and biofeedback therapies to reduce post-operative pain (as defined on slide #3), which improves the overall healing process. The objective, as noted on slide #2, is the importance of effective pain control. The author of the CEA concedes that all three interventions similarly meet the therapeutic objective of limiting post-operative pain in a safe and low-risk manner; however, the cost differences are significant.


As provided in the CEA, the most significant tangible benefits, as mentioned above, are providing effective pain management in a safe, low-risk manner. Additionally, and as a result of reducing pain effectively, increased patient satisfaction, better patient compliance, and overall better healing leads to reduced costs associated with post-operative recovery, such as reduced length of stay and reduced need for post-surgical care (e.g. nursing care, physician care, rehospitalization, medications). Slide #4 of the presentation outlines these similar benefits.


The costs of each intervention are significant factors in deciding which intervention to promote. Once the annual cost for each intervention if figured, each of the identified costs are distributed across the expected patient volume of 197 and further distributed over the likelihood of each of three surgical procedures (spinal fusion, total hip replacement, and auto hema stem cell transplant) being performed. Though this is largely unnecessary, it does provide perspective for how the costs will be distributed and raise the overall cost for each surgical procedure performed, as shown on slide #8. The total annual cost for each intervention, as well as the per-patient cost, is outlined on slide #5 and graphed on slides #6 and #7.

The fixed costs for guided imagery include a psychology consultant, a surgery PA coordinator, wages for clerical staff, and training for the surgery PA.

The fixed costs for hypnosis includes a psychologist skilled in hypnotherapy and wages for clerical staff. The amount of resources for hypnosis are significantly less than for guided imagery; however, the intervention is more substantial requiring significantly more hours per week paid (12 for hypnosis vs. 2 for guided imagery).

The fixed costs for biofeedback are more equivalent to, though slightly more than, those of guided imagery. Biofeedback requires a psychology consultant, a surgery PA coordinator, wages for clerical staff, and training for the surgery PA, but the fixed costs for biofeedback also include specific equipment, including skin sensors, two video monitors, VCRs, and carts.

The total identified costs for guided imagery is 32.18% less than biofeedback and 64.56% less than hypnosis.


Based on the CEA, the most cost-effective intervention for impacting and controlling post-operative pain on patients undergoing one of the three surgical procedures outlined is guided imagery. This result is stated on slide #10.


The appropriate management of pain is crucial to patient care. Assuming that the three interventions investigated are equally effective towards the objective of reducing and controlling pain, the cost of each intervention is the deciding factor when considering which of the three interventions to employ. In this case, guided imagery is the most cost-effective intervention and is the recommended intervention, per the CEA.

It is important to understand that these costs will be borne by not one but three different departments – the pain clinic, the orthopedic surgery department, and the patient education department. This cost-sharing removes the burden of providing the intervention from a single department and disperses the burden over the budgets of three different departments.


Penner, S. J. (2004). Introduction to health care economics & financial management: fundamental concepts with practical applications. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Strategic Planning: Strategies & Tactics

Seattle Children’s Hospital (2011, n.d.) was the first pediatric specialty care hospital founded west of the Mississippi River. Seattle Children’s Hospital, supported by the philanthropic efforts of the community, performs at the cutting-edge of pediatric medicine and research. With nearly 60 pediatric specialties and award-winning research faculty, Seattle Children’s Hospital presents expertise in the field of pediatric medicine.


Seattle Children’s Hospital (n.d.) is a pediatric specialty care center associated with the University of Washington to provide medical and surgical residents with the hands-on practical experience and education needed to succeed in the medical profession.

The hospital (Seattle Children’s Hospital, n.d.) has many specialized programs, or sub-specialties, within its pediatric specialty, including urgent and emergency care, oncology and hematology, craniofacial, orthopedic and sports medicine, a heart and transplant center, neonatology, neurosurgery, and general and thoracic surgery.

Seattle Children’s Hospital (n.d.) also boasts an award-winning research facility dedicated to treating and eliminating pediatric disease.

Strategic Planning

The strategic plan of Seattle Children’s Hospital (2011) focuses on the hospital’s vision and four specific goals:

  1. provide the safest, most effective care possible,

  2. control and reduce the cost of providing care,

  3. find cures and educate clinicians and researchers, and

  4. grow responsibly and provide access to every child who needs us (p. 2).

In order to succeed in reaching these goals, the hospital’s plan must have directives that outline the strategies and tactics useful in attaining the goals.


Strategy is the broad means directed towards attaining strategic goals. As Seattle Children’s Hospital’s (2011) strategic plan demonstrates, in order to achieve the means of providing the safest, most effective care possible, “[the hospital] will standardize our care processes and strengthen our systems to prevent and respond rapidly to medical errors” (p. 5). This strategy is broadly stated, provides direction, and acknowledges that failures may still occur, which allows for the provision of a secondary, or backup, strategy for response to these failures.


Tactics are the individual steps made within a strategy towards attaining a specific goal. Tactics should be moral, safe, efficient and effective towards the strategic goals. For instance, the strategy of “[standardizing] our care processes and [strengthening] our systems to prevent and respond rapidly to medical errors” (Seattle Children’s Hospital, 2011, p. 5) is well-stated, yet broad. In order to employ this strategy, tactics must be employed that are specific to meeting the described goal. In this case, Seattle Children’s Hospital (2011) has identified that “[completing] the transition to an electronic medical record system” (p. 5) is a specific means that can be used to help fulfill this particular strategy and meet the described goal.

Another tactic not presented in Seattle Children’s Hospital’s (2011) strategic plan but helpful in attaining the goal of improved patient safety and drawn from the strategy of “[standardizing] … care processes and [strengthening] … systems” (p. 5) would be the formation of an anonymous, voluntary self-reporting system in which a nurse or physician submits a card detailing a medical or surgical error in the spirit of identifying processes and systems in need of improvement.


Strategic plans are guided by strategic goals, and strategic goals can have many strategies that are employed and useful in meeting the stated goals. It is also true that a plethora of tactics can be employed for each strategy.

Strategic plans are often based on lofty, yet attainable, goals. In order to meet these goals, one must only ask a simple question: How? With each broad answer, a continuous and recursive series of How? can be used to work the strategy into a number of manageable tactics to use to reach that lofty goal.


Seattle Children’s Hospital. (2011). Shaping the future of pediatric healthcare: Strategic plan 2012 to 2016. Retrieved from http://www.seattlechildrens.org/pdf/strategic-plan-2012-2016.pdf

Seattle Children’s Hospital. (n.d.). About Seattle Children’s. Retrieved from http://www.seattlechildrens.org/about/

Electronic medical records:

The Push and the Pull

Increasing safety and efficiency in medicine can only lead to an increase in health care quality, right? Some might not agree, especially when it comes to the implementation of electronic medical records (EMRs). There is a federal effort to ensure all medical records are in digital format by 2014, and supporters of EMR technology laud their effectiveness at minimizing medical errors, keeping records safe, facilitating information portability, and increasing cost-efficiency overall (The HWN Team, 2009; Preidt, 2009). Unfortunately, many are skeptical of the cost, security, and utility of such systems (Brown, 2008; The HWN Team, 2009; Preidt, 2009; Terry, 2009). These concerns (and others) are dramatically slowing the pace of EMR adoption, especially in smaller private practices where cost is a significant issue (Ford, Menachemi, Peterson, & Huerta, 2009).

Does EMR adoption actually increase safety? As Edmund, Ramaiah, and Gulla (2009) point out, a working computer terminal is required in order to read the EMR. If the computer system fails, there is no longer access to the medical record. This could be detrimental in a number of cases, especially when considering emergency medicine. Edmund, Ramaiah, and Gulla also describe how difficult it can be to maintain such a system. With this in mind, it is plain that as the system ages there will be more frequent outages and, therefore, more opportunity for untoward effects. Further, recent research shows how EMRs enforce pay-for-performance schemes that many U.S. physicians resent. McDonald and Roland (2009) demonstrate that physicians in California would rather disenroll patients who are noncompliant when reimbursed under pay-for-performance models enforced by the EMR software. Declining to treat patients who express their personal responsibility and choice in their own medical treatment cannot improve the effectiveness of safety in the care that they receive.

There needs to be a middle ground. Baldwin (2009) offers some great real world examples of how some hospitals and practices use hybrid systems to ensure effectiveness and quality while enjoying the benefits of digital records. According to Baldwin, there are many concerns to account for when considering a move from an all paper charting system to an all digital system. Many times, these concerns cannot be allayed and concessions between the two systems must be made. Brown (2008) suggests providing a solid education to the front-line staff regarding EMR implementation, and hence, obtaining their ‘buy in’ to the process to create a smoother transition to implementation. However, this does not address the safety concerns. Baldwin’s advice to analyze which processes should be computerized allows a solid business approach to EMR implementation, allowing some processes to remain paper-based if it makes sense to do so.


Baldwin, G. (2009). Straddling two worlds. Health Data Management, 17(8), 17-22.

Brown, H. (2008, April). View from the frontline: Does IT make patient care worse? He@lth Information on the Internet, 62(1), 9.

Edmund, L. C. S., Ramaiah, C. K., & Gulla, S. P. (2009, November). Electronic medical records management systems: an overview. Journal of Library & Information Technology, 29(6), 3-12.

Ford, E. W., Menachemi, N., Peterson, L. T., & Huerta, T. R. (2009). Resistance is futile: But it is slowing the pace of EHR adoption nonetheless. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 16, 274-281. doi:10.1197/jamia.M3042

The HWN Team. (2009, March). Electronic medical records: the pros and cons. Health Worldnet. Retrieved from http://healthworldnet.com/HeadsOrTails/electronic-medical-records-the-pros-and-cons/?C=6238

McDonald, R. & Roland, M. (2009, March). Pay for performance in primary care in England and California: Comparison of unintended consequences. Annals of Family Medicine, 7(2), 121-127. doi:10.1370/afm.946

Preidt, R. (2009, December 16). Pros and cons of electronic medical records weighed. Business Week. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/634091.html

Terry, N. P. (2009). Personal health records: Directing more costs and risks to consumers? Drexel Law Review, 1(2), 216-260.

The Patient Perspective: Patient Safety

The Speak Up materials provided by The Joint Commission (2011a, 2011b) do a great service in succinctly illustrating the need to be educated about health care issues. Patients and their families have a unique perspective to understanding their (or, their family member’s) health (Vincent & Coulter, 2002). Although physicians, nurses, and allied health providers are responsible for providing quality care, it remains the domain of the patient to express uncertainty or provide additional information to guide the provider. Ultimately, the patient or surrogate decision-maker must provide consent for treatment and must do so with full understanding. There are times, however, that the scope of treatment is so drastic, emergent, or specialized that the patient may not have the facilities to gain a full understanding of care needing to be rendered (Vincent & Coulter, 2002). This is the exception.

In the case of Josie King (Josie King Foundation, 2002; Niedowski, 2003; Zimmerman, 2004), which I elaborated on last week, Sorrel King, Josie’s mother, was educated about her daughter’s condition and spoke up as The Joint Commission recommends. Unfortunately, this case turned into tragedy not because Sorrel King did wrong but because the nurse disregarded her apprehension. This was tantamount to malpractice and no patient or family member could have prevented this, save for using force to physically prevent the administration of medicine. According to MacDonald (2009), there are nurses that believe “[patients] have no say and that medications are the domain of doctors, leaving the nurse and the patient to trust that the doctors would do the right thing” (p. 29).

Perhaps things were slightly different, however. As MacDonald (2009) explains, patient’s who are knowledgeable of their illness and take an active role in their health care decisions add another layer of safety, especially when considering medication action, reaction, and interaction. Medication prescription errors are numerous within health care, and as in the case of Josie King, improved communication between the physicians, nurses, and Sorrel King might have prevented Josie from being administered the narcotic and instead receiving the fluid she so desparately needed (Vincent & Coulter, 2002).

Health care should be patient-centric as it remains the responsibility of the patient to be educated about the care they receive and to provide consent for that care and treatment to be rendered. An uneducated patient does add risk, but sometimes this is unavoidable. It is in these instances that special care should be taken until a full medical history can be attained.


The Joint Commission. (2011a, March 7). Speak up: Prevent errors in your care [Video podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.jointcommission.org/multimedia/speak-up-prevent-errors-in-your-care-/

The Joint Commission. (2011b, April 5). Speak up: Prevent the spread of infection [Video podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.jointcommission.org/multimedia/speak-up–prevent-the-spread-of-infection/

Josie King Foundation. (2002). About: What happened. Retrieved from http://www.josieking.org/page.cfm?pageID=10

Macdonald, M. (2009). Pilot study: The role of the hospitalized patient in medication administration safety. Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare, 6(3), 28-31. Retrieved from http://www.psqh.com/

Niedowski, E. (2003, December 15). From tragedy, a quest for safer care; Cause: After medical mistakes led to her little girl’s death, Sorrel King joined with Johns Hopkins in a campaign to spare other families such anguish. The Sun, pp. 1A. Retrieved from http://teacherweb.com/NY/StBarnabas/Quality/JohnsHopkinsErrors.pdf

Vincent, C. A. & Coulter, A. (2002). Patient safety: what about the patient? Quality & Safety in Health Care, 11(1), 76–80. doi:10.1136/qhc.11.1.76

Zimmerman, R. (2004, May 18). Doctors’ new tool to fight lawsuits: Saying ‘I’m sorry’. Wall Street Journal, pp. A1. Retrieved from http://www.theoma.org/files/wsj%20-%20medical%20error%20-%2005-18-2004.pdf

Comparing Hospital Care in My Area

Living in northeastern Connecticut, I find myself equidistant from two area hospitals. As a health care provider and consumer, I feel that it is important to choose the professionals who will provide my care based on fact. Websites created by the Joint Commission (2011) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS; 2011) prove to be a helpful repository of information regarding the safety and quality of care delivered by hospitals and practitioners across the country.

Using these two websites, I will compare the three closest hospitals to my zip code: 1) Day Kimball Hospital (10.3 mi), 2) Harrington Memorial Hospital (10.0 mi), and 3) Windham Community Memorial Hospital (21.7 mi). The mean distance from my home to these hospitals is 15.85 mi. with all three being acceptable by me in distance and time in the case of an emergency. Day Kimball Hospital (DKH; 2011) is a 104-bed acute care facility located in Putnam, Connecticut. Harrington Memorial Hospital (HMH; 2009) is a 114-bed acute care facility located in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Windham Community Memorial Hospital (WCMH; n.d.) is a 130-bed acute care facility located in Windham, Connecticut.

General process of care measures account for best practices in medicine and health care. The Surgical Care Improvement Project has set goals preventing untoward cardiac effects during certain surgical procedures along with infection control measures. According to Health Compare (HHS, 2011), cumulative scores for each hospital based on general process of care measures in the Surgical Care Improvement Project are as follows: DKH=0.954, HMH=0.901, WCMH=0.935. Another general process measure aimed at providing the standard of care of heart attack victims is the Heart Attack or Chest Pain Process of Care. The cumulative scores for these reported measures are: DKH=0.967, HMH=0.973, WCMH=0.956. Another cardiac related measure is the heart failure process of care measure. The cumulative results are: DKH=0.950, HMH=0.873, WCMH=0.893. Pneumonia process of care measures are important to gauge the appropriateness of treatments provided to stave off further development of respiratory failure and sepsis, two highly conditions with increase mortality. The cumulative scores for the pneumonia process of care measures are: DKH=0.932, HMH=0.860, WCMH=0.955. The last general process of care measure reflects the adherence to best practices in treating and managing children’s asthma; however, none of the three hospitals provided data for any of the process measures of this category.

Along with process of care measures, outcome of care measures are also important as they reflect the ability of each hospital to manage the risks of mortality and morbidity in caring for their patients. Outcome measures are based on both death and readmission of heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia patients. For all three hospitals, DKH, HMH, and WCMH, the cumulative results for outcome of care measures were not statistically different from than the national rates in all categories. Health Compare (HHS, 2011) reports these measures as such.

One final measure that I find important in choosing a hospital is the patient satisfaction scores. Cumulative scores of the Survey of Patients’ Hospital Experience allow us to compare the three hospitals: DKH=0.695, HMH=0.701, WCMH=0.677.

In ranking each of the three hospitals, I used an average of the cumulative scores for each hospital’s measure discussed above. The final score, according to the averages of the Hospital Compare (HHS, 2011) scores, is: DKH=0.900, HMH=0.862, WCMH=0.883; therefore, my first choice of hospitals, according to the data presented in Hospital Compare is DKH with WCMH being second and HMH third. According to this data, though, each of the three hospitals appears to be equitable with the others striving in some measures and faltering in others. This is also evidenced by Quality Check (The Joint Commission, 2011), which shows a graphic representation of the same overall data, National Quality Improvement Goals and the Surgical Care Improvement Project, used by HHS (2011). Quality Check (The Joint Commission, 2011) compares quality data with the target ranges of other hospitals.

According to Quality Check (The Joint Commission, 2011), DKH met all the target goals while exceeding the goals set for infection prevention. HMH failed to meet the pneumonia care goal, but met all other goals. HMH did not exceed any of the goals. WCMH failed to meet the heart failure care goal, but met all other goals. WCMH did not exceed any of the goals.

In considering the data from Hospital Compare (HHS, 2011) and Quality Check (The Joint Commission, 2011), it is clear that this data can be used by consumers to make more informed decisions regarding their health care. Though the methods in this paper might be questionable and simple, consumers may disregard some measures while favoring others, depending on their perception of what measures are important in judging the provision of the care that they might receive. Additionally, the data used for the comparisons, many times, accounted for a small patient population; however, each hospital serves comparable communities with comparable levels of service. This may be a consideration when performing scientific statistical analyses, but that would be beyond the scope of this paper.

The provision of health care must be ethical, just, and equitable. Allowing consumers access to data regarding the performance of hospitals in their area can provide additional insight to patients when choosing their health care provider.


Day Kimball Hospital. (2011). Sevices and locations: Day Kimball Hospital. Retrieved from http://www.daykimball.org/services-and-locations/day-kimball-hospital/

Harrington Memorial Hospital. (2009). About us: Harrington at a glance. Retrieved from http://www.harringtonhospital.org/about_us/harrington_at_a_glance

The Joint Commission. (2011). Quality check. Retrieved from http://www.qualitycheck.org/ consumer/searchQCR.aspx

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). Hospital compare. Retrieved from http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov/

Windham Community Memorial Hospital. (n.d.). CEO’s message. Retrieved from http://www.windhamhospital.org/wh.nsf/View/CEOsMessage

Public Health Risks in the 21st Century

Within the next 30 years, I foresee a significant public health risk of viral pandemic, a concern outlined in the recently published CISIS commission report (Fallon & Gayle, 2010). According to many, the next significant pandemic to be a global threat will occur anytime between now and 70 years (Gostin, 2004; Monto, Comanor, Shay, & Thompson, 2006; Ravilious, 2005; Smil, 2008; Tapper, 2006; Taubenberger, Morens, & Fauci, 2007). Although many scientists have their focus on influenza as the most probable for pandemic exposure, other novel virii, such as SARS, HIV, et al., have the facets to make them just as potentially significant (Gostin, 2004; Smil, 2008; Tapper, 2006). Regardless of the particular pathogen, history has shown pandemics to create and environment of negative net effects to humanity. According to Billings (1997) and Ravilious (2005), the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918, caused by a mutated avian flu strain, claimed between 20-million and 40-million lives in a single year (Monto et al., 2006; Taubenberger et al., 2007). Spreading quickly along major international trade routes, the Spanish flu infected many servicemen returning from duty at the end of World War I. As these infected servicemen returned and celebrated the armistice in crowds of people, a severe strain on the public health system in the United States was unknowingly developing. Considering the hypervirilence and increased mortality (2.5%, compared to the typical 0.1%) caused by the 1918 Spaish flu, the world’s economy was in turmoil (Billings, 1997). As most of the American workforce was recently embroiled in overseas combat duty, upon their return they must now face the possibility of infection, an inability to work, and possible death.

Monto et al. (2006) outline a useful model of surveillance techniques that would not only be useful in detecting and improving response to influenza outbreaks, but it would certainly help to detect any new significant diseases that could be a public health risk and threaten a population or society. Additionally, Taubenberger et al. (2007) focuses on learning the biology of the influenza virus to predict the possibility of outbreak and, thus, pandemic potential. Coupling these two approaches makes sense to both identify potential pathogens and use surveillance techniques to track and direct responses to mitigate actual outbreaks as they occur. These efforts, however, should be directed by an organization that values independant operation, impartiality, neutrality, and universality, just a few of the principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movements (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2010). Adoption of these principles will allow valuable health information to flow freely to other entities positioned to respond appropriately without regard to local politics, ensuring a just and equitable solution to help to mitigate the potential for great harm.


Billings, M. (1997/2005). The influenza pandemic of 1918. Retrieved from http://virus.stanford.edu/uda/

Fallon, W. J. & Gayle, H. D. (2010). Report of the CISIS commission on smart global health policy: A healthier, safer and more prosperous world. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Gostin, L. O. (2004). Pandemic influenza: Public health preparedness for the next global health emergency. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 32(4), 565-573. doi:10.1111/j.1748-720X.2004.tb01962.x

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. (2010, July). Haiti: From sustaining lives to sustainable solutions – the challenge of sanitation. Geneva, Switzerland: Author.

Monto, A. S., Comanor, L., Shay, D. K., & Thompson, W. W. (2006). Epidemiology of pandemic influenza: use of surveillance and modeling for pandemic preparedness. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 194(Suppl. 2), S92-S97. doi:10.1086/507559

Ravilious, K. (2005, April 14). What a way to go. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2005/apr/14/research.science2

Smil, V. (2008). Global catastrophes and trends: the next fifty years. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Tapper, M. L. (2006). Emerging viral diseases and infectious disease risks. Haemophilia, 12(Suppl. 1), 3–7. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2516.2006.01194.x

Taubenberger, J. K., Morens, D. M., & Fauci, A. S. (2007). The next influenza pandemic: Can it be predicted? Journal of the American Medical Association, 297(18), 2025–2027. doi:10.1001/jama.297.18.2025.

A Novel Approach to Combat Heart Disease

According to Hansson (2005), cardiovascular disease is fast becoming the number one killer in the world among in developing countries and the Western world, due mainly to the correlation of increased rates of obesity and diabetes (Haffner, Lehto, Rönnemaa, Pyörälä, & Laakso, 1998; Miller, 2011; Willer et al., 2008). The goal of eradicating heart disease by the end of the twentieth century has been missed as cardiovascular disease is still responsible for 38% of deaths in North America. There has been much research over the last three decades regarding correlations between cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Miller et al. (2011) identifies, based on the current literature, a number of metabolic syndromes in which elevated triglyceride levels are responsible for significantly increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and the risk of death from a cardiac event.

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including smoking, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes, which have positive predictive value for CVD, include a positive family history, hypertension, male gender, and age (Haffner, Lehto, Rönnemaa, Pyörälä, & Laakso, 1998; Hansson, 2005; Koliaki, 2011).

Demographically, according to NHANES 1999-2008 (as cited in Miller, 2011), Mexican American men (50 to 59 years old, 58.8%) are at the greatest risk with the highest prevalence of elevated triglyceride levels ( 150 mg/dL) followed by (in order of decreasing prevalence) Mexican American women ( 70 years old, 50.5%), non-Hispanic White men (60 to 69 years old, 43.6%), non-Hispanic White women (60 to 69 years old, 42.2%), non-Hispanic Black men (40 to 49 years old, 30.4%), and non-Hispanic Black women (60 to 69 years old, 25.3%).

Haffner et al. (1998) describe the importance of lowering cholesterol levels in those with diabetes mellitus type II as they both contribute to increases in mortality and morbidity from cardiovascular disease; therefore, efforts should be focused on identifying risks to heart health starting at age 30 with concomitant risk factors of diabetes or dyslipidemia, or any combination of two or more identified risk factors. More specific screening should begin at age 40 with Mexican American males and all other demographics suffering from any one of the secondary risk-factors, and at age 50 with all other ethnic demographics, regardless of the presence of risk-factors.

Specific screening for the at-risk population should include diagnostic percutaneous transthoracic coronary angiography (PTCA) and angioplasty, if needed. PTCA is a method of introducing a catheter through an artery to the coronary arteries of the heart, guided by radiology, to diagnose specific narrowing of these vessels, at which time a repair (angioplasty) can proceed immediately. PTCA, according to Koliaki et al. (2011), is the gold standard of diagnosing the presence and degree of atherosclerotic CVD. Currently, the standard for initiating PTCA requires a more acute presentation, typically complaints of chest pain or some other cardiac related illness. However, the proven safety and efficacy of PTCA may allow it to be used more as a screening tool as well as a primary coronary intervention in acute cases.

Utilizing the diffusions of innovations model of behavior change, public health entities can provide specific information to encourage interventional cardiologists to employ this technique as a focused CVD screening tool for at-risk populations (“Culture and health,” 2012). Adoption, however, is conditional on remuneration; therefore, a public health task force at the national level should investigate the potential for spending versus savings, and if significant, should disseminate the information to third-party payors (heath insurance providers, etc.) to ensure coverage when required. Additionally, grassroots efforts should be two-pronged, focusing on both the affected communities and the physicians most likely to contact the at-risk community. For the at-risk community, using mass-media, the message should simply be to discuss your risk with your physician, stop smoking, eat healthy, and exercise. The message, itself, needs to be conveyed in an effective manner, however. For the physicians, using mass-mailing and professional development campaigns, the message needs to more complex outlining risk versus reward, cost-effectiveness, and the potential for impacting a growing trend of heart-related death and disability. The American Heart Association has a proven track record of effective mass-media campaigns as well as professional development programs. So long as PTCA can be considered as an effective and cost-saving screening tool, the American Heart Association should certainly be involved in sending the message out.

Like with the proliferation of television advertisement of pharmaceuticals, using diffusions of innovations, we can get the heart-healthy message to the communities that would most benefit and the providers who can facilitate appropriate and novel screening and treatment techniques. We have already failed to eradicate CVD by the turn of the century, but if we think outside the box and develop novel approaches to consider, we may still have a chance at effectively lowering the incidence and prevalence of CVD in the years to come.


Culture and health. (2012). Public health and global essentials (Custom ed.; pp. 213-226). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Haffner, S. M., Lehto, S., Rönnemaa, T., Pyörälä, K., & Laakso, M. (1998). Mortality from coronary heart disease in subjects with type 2 diabetes and in nondiabetic subjects with and without prior myocardial infarction. New England Journal of Medicine, 339(4), 229-234. doi:10.1056/NEJM199807233390404

Hansson, G. K. (2005). Inflammation, atherosclerosis, and coronary artery disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 352(16), 1685-1695. doi:10.1056/NEJMra043430

Koliaki, C., Sanidas, E., Dalianis, N., Panagiotakos, D., Papadopoulos, D., Votteas, V., & Katsilambros, N. (2011). Relationship between established cardiovascular risk factors and specific coronary angiographic findings in a large cohort of Greek catheterized patients. Angiology, 62(1), 74-80. doi:10.1177/0003319710370960

Miller, M., Stone, N. J., Ballantyne, C., Bittner, V., Criqui, M. H., Henry N. Ginsberg, H. N., … Council on the Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease (2011). Triglycerides and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(20), 2292-2333. doi:10.1161/CIR.0b013e3182160726

Willer, C. J., Sanna, S., Jackson, A. U., Scuteri, A., Bonnycastle, L. L., Clarke, R., … Abecasis, G. R. (2008). Newly identified loci that influence lipid concentrations and risk of coronary artery disease. Nature, 40(2), 161-169. doi:10.1038/ng.76


P.E.R.I. Problem Identification

The health problem I have identified is cardiovascular disease (CVD). According to Hansson (2005), CVD was expected to be significantly reduced or eliminated by the turn of the century; however, cardiovascular disease remains one of the leading cause of death globally with a rise in obesity and diabetes incidence (Willer et al., 2008). The two primary factors contributing to CVD are thought to be hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol levels in the blood, and hypertension, or high blood pressure, and although Koliaki et al. (2011) shows no predictive value between obesity and CVD, there remains a strong correlation between obesity and diabetes (Haffner, Lehto, Rönnemaa, Pyörälä, & Laakso, 1998; Hansson, 2005). A better look at the emerging literature might provide insight as to why attempts to control cholesterol and blood pressure have largely failed to eradicate CVD.

Koliaki et al. (2011) contend that smoking, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes have positive predictive value for CVD while a positive family history, hypertension, male gender, and age, though predictive, are significantly less specific. Considering the causative risk factors and admitting the difficulty in changing age, family history, and gender, altering smoking status, cholesterol levels, and severity of diabetes and blood pressure have all been shown to decrease the risk of CVD. However, like genetic factors such as family history and gender, researchers are finding difficulty in controlling cholesterol levels effectively in many patients, especially those with concommitant diabetes mellitus (Haffner et al., 1998; Willer, 2008). However, statin-type cholesterol-lowering medications appear to have other protective effects than merely lowering cholesterol (Hansson, 2005).

In order to combat the growing concern of cardiovascular disease and, ultimately, the increasing mortality from the same, the American Heart Association (AHA) has published a scientific statement paper regarding the latest literature and research (Miller et al., 2011). AHA has taken the lead in cardiovascular health and strives to promote best practices based on the available evidence. By promoting AHA’s position using mass-mailing campaigns to physicians practicing in primary care, emergency, cardiology, and endocrinology, we can be assured that the right message is being disseminated rapidly to those most inclined to intervene. As more physicans in the identified roles adopt the latest evidence-based practice, more at-risk patients can be screened for CVD and the contributing factors. As screening paradigms become more focused, more of the at-risk population will be identified sooner which will allow for earlier intervention decreasing overall mortality and morbidity from CVD.

P cardiovascular disease
E Causes: DM, type II; dyslipidemia (hypercholesterolemia); smoking; diet; exercise; gender; age
Burden: increasing mortality and morbidity globally
R Diabetes mellitus screening and control, HTN screening and control, statin-type medication prescription, PTCA screening recommendations, smoking cessation
I AHA position, public health mailing campaign, cadre of physician groups

Determinants of Health – Mental Illness

When attempting to solve many of the issues relevant to public health, it is essential to understand the factors that contribute to disparities across various ethnic, racial, cultural and socioeconomic boundaries (Satcher & Higginbotham, 2008). In northeastern Connecticut, however, health disparities are primarily related to the socioeconomic strata, as much of the population is Caucasian and there are identifiable health disparities within this group (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002, 2008; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009). The disparity that I will focus on in this paper is mental illness.

According to Adler and Rehkopf (2008), unjust social disparity leads to greater health disparity, but what is unjust about social disparity? Adler and Rehkopf continue to describe efforts of researchers to evaluate how socioeconomic status, both, in conjunction with and independent of race or ethnicity, contribute to health disparities. There exists a significant difference in the manner in which different cultures approach mental health needs (Hatzenbuehler, Keyes, Narrow, Grant, & Hasin, 2008). Whites, who are more prone to suffering mental health issues, according to McGuire and Miranda (2008), preferring to seek professional care while Blacks are more likely to opt for self-directed care. Though Wang, Burglund, and Kessler (2001) tell of mental health treatment disparities between Whites and Blacks, in their study, 14 times more Whites responded than Blacks which may suggest that Whites are more apt to discuss mental health issues and Blacks might not unless they are motivated by extrinsic factors, such as poor care or the impression thereof. As long as Blacks are not prevented or discouraged from seeking care, there is no injustice in choosing self-care; however, it may not be the most effective option. Cultural awareness on the part of health care providers who may have an opportunity to provide health education to Blacks may alone increase the utilization of mental health services among the Black demographic.

More importantly, mental illness often exists in the presence of poverty and the lack of education. Much of the literature, such as Schwartz and Meyer (2010), seems to make the implication that low socioeconomic status is a causative risk-factor for mental illness, yet the literature also makes the distinction that one of the lowest groups on the socioeconomic ladder, Blacks, have a lower incidence, overall, of mental illness. This may be true in some instances; however, it is more likely that mental illness may be the proximal cause for an afflicted person’s socioeconomic status, especially if the illness manifested early enough to interfere with the person’s education.

More research needs to be undertaken to identify effective programs that aim to mitigate bias of mental health conditions within the community. As mental health disorders lose their stigma, more people who suffer from mental health issues will be able to seek care comfortably and unafraid, leading to increased treatment rates and increased synthesis within the community. This synthesis alone would alleviate much of the socioeconomic burden. Additionally, we need to shift our focus and strive to fix health issues locally, not nationally or globally. The world is comprised of a network of communities of individuals. Impacting the individual is the first step to affecting positive social change. Focusing on individual health will ultimately impact community, national, and global health.

The U.S. Health care system is overtaxed in caring for people with mental illness. According to Insel (2008), we need to refocus our efforts on providing care for mental illness to reduce the enormous indirect costs estimated at $193.2-billion per year. A viable solution in addressing mental illness as a health disparity, I feel, lies in understanding the manner that mental illness causes lower socioeconomic status which, in turn, causes risk of disparate care. Programs designed to aim for situational mitigation instead of mental health recovery will be less costly, more effective and, overall, more ideal. There will still be an obvious and great need for treatment and recovery programs, but with mitigation, I posit that they will be more effective, also.


Adler, N. E. & Rehkopf, D. H. (2008). U.S. disparities in health: descriptions, causes, and mechanisms. Annual Review of Public Health, 29(1), 235-252. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.29.020907.090852

Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Keyes, K. M., Narrow, W. E., Grant, B. F., & Hasin, D. S. (2008). Racial/ethnic disparities in service utilization for individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders in the general population. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(7), 1112-1121. doi:10.4088/JCP.v69n0711

Insel, T. R. (2008). Assessing the economic costs of serious mental illness. American Journal of Psychiatry, 165, 663-665. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.08030366

McGuire, T. G. & Miranda, J. (2008). New evidence regarding racial and ethnic disparities in mental health: policy implications. Health Affairs, 27(2), 393-403. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.27.2.393

Newport, F. & Mendes, E. (2009, July 22). About one in six U.S. adults are without health insurance: Highest uninsured rates among Hispanics, the young, and those with low incomes. Gallup-Heathways Well-Being Index. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/121820/one-six-adults-without-health-insurance.aspx

Satcher, D. & Higginbotham, E. J. (2008). The public health approach to eliminating health disparities. American Journal of Public Health, 98(3), 400–403. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2007.123919

Schwartz, S. & Meyer, I. H. (2010). Mental health disparities research: The impact of within and between group analyses on tests of social stress hypotheses. Social Science and Medicine, 70, 1111-1118. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.11.032

U.S. Census Bureau. (2002). Census 2000. Retrieved from http://www.ct.gov/ecd/cwp/view.asp?a=1106&q=250616

U.S. Census Bureau. (2008). Population estimates: Annual estimates of the resident population by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin for counties in Connecticut: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008 [Data]. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/popest/counties/asrh/files/cc-est2008-alldata-09.csv

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). Community health status indicators report. Retrieved from http://communityhealth.hhs.gov/

Community Health: How Healthy is My Community?

I currently reside in Windham County, Connecticut. Windham County is primarily rural with one community, Willimantic, comprising most of the urban demographic. Windham County is functionally divided in half (north to south) in regards to health and hospital services. Primarily, Windham Community Memorial Hospital serves the west and Day Kimball Hospital serves the east. Accordingly, the eastern and western portions of the county may not be representative of each other, yet both are represented as a singular group when considering county-based statistics. This is a shortcoming of county-based statistics. In this instance, Willimantic, in the western portion of Windham County, may negatively affect the statistics of towns like Killingly, Pomfret, and Putnam, in the eastern portion of the county, due primarily to an increase in impoverished populations residing in Willimantic (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). Additionally, data is lacking for a number of measures, according to the Community Health Status Indicators Project Working Group (2009), but continuing efforts will be made to increase reporting over time.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2008) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2009), the population of Windham County is 117,345 and is predominantly white (94.3%) with the remaining (5.7%) divided among, in order of predominance, Hispanics, Blacks, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians. The particularly vulnerable populations identified are adults age 25 and older who do not hold a high school diploma, are unemployed, are severely disabled and unable to work, suffer major depression, or have recently used illicit drugs. The uninsured rate in Windham County is well below the 16% national average at 9.5% (Newport & Mendes, 2009; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009).

Windham County fares equal or better in most measures, at least within the margin of error; therefore, I feel that Windham County, though not exceptionally healthy, is better than most and striving to meet the national standards (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009). For example, though the incidence of cancer and subsequent death resulting remains higher than peer counties, Windham County falls well within the expected range of death measures and exceeds peer counties in homicide, stroke, suicide, and unintentional injuries. Windham County also falls below the national standardized target for both stroke and coronary heart disease deaths. Infant mortality and birth measures seem representative of peer counties. Windham County also meets or exceeds environmental standards in all cases except for two reports of E. coli infections. There were also reports of five cases of Haemophilus influenzae B, two cases of Hepatitis A, and three cases of Hepatitis B — the only unexpected cases of infectious diseases reported. Pertussis incidence was limited to 25% of expected cases.

Windham County is not exceptional, but living here gives me the sense that the focus is on preventative care rather than acute care, which might explain how the health goals are being achieved overall. The report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2009) is in agreement.


Community Health Status Indicators Project Working Group. (2009). Data sources, definitions, and notes for CHSI2009. Retrieved from http://communityhealth.hhs.gov/

Newport, F. & Mendes, E. (2009, July 22). About one in six U.S. adults are without health insurance: Highest uninsured rates among Hispanics, the young, and those with low incomes. Gallup-Heathways Well-Being Index. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/121820/one-six-adults-without-health-insurance.aspx

U.S. Census Bureau. (2002). Census 2000. Retrieved from http://www.ct.gov/ecd/cwp/view.asp?a=1106&q=250616

U.S. Census Bureau. (2008). Population estimates: Annual estimates of the resident population by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin for counties in Connecticut: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008 [Data]. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/popest/counties/asrh/files/cc-est2008-alldata-09.csv

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). Community health status indicators report. Retrieved from http://communityhealth.hhs.gov/