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Published on March 28, 2016

What are Jacksonville's biggest health needs? These hospitals have some answers

By Andrew Pantazi, Florida Times-Union

Jacksonville’s hospitals released Thursday an expansive reportlooking at the city’s health needs — with mental health, transportation and access to care leading the long list of needs — and promising to work to solve problems.

In July 2011, Baptist Health, Brooks Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic, UF Health Jacksonville, St. Vincent’s HealthCare and Wolfson Children’s Hospital formed a coalition, along with county health departments, called the Jacksonville Metropolitan Community Benefit Partnership.

The tax-exempt hospitals face a federal requirement to provide these reports, called “community health needs assessments,” but Jacksonville’s hospitals decided to do one joint report every three years rather than each doing its own.

Each of the hospitals identified its prioritized needs, and the hospital boards will address those needs on their own, separate from the report. Some issues, however, were universal for hospitals:

■ Health-care access

■ Health disparities

■ Mental health

■ Nutrition, physical activity, and obesity

■ Transportation

■ Maternal and child health (all hospitals but Brooks Rehab listed this)

The report took a detailed look at demographics and socioeconomic factors in the region. Duval had the highest poverty rate and the lowest median income, for example, and income and poverty are key factors in health outcomes. The report also looked at health outcomes and rankings — like Duval’s high rate of sexually transmitted infections and air pollution.

Even where the report found Northeast Florida’s counties did better than the rest of the state and country, like in obesity, hospital executives said it was nothing to praise. “That simply reflects what a problem we have in our nation,” said Gianrico Farrugia, CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida, about the lower-than-average obesity rates in Duval, Nassau, Clay and St. Johns.

“One way to determine what people need is simply to ask, which is what this study did,” said Russ Armistead, CEO and president of UF Health. In addition to using data, the report relied on interviews and town hall meetings.

The report concluded that affordable care and a lack of knowledge about services, along with dozens of other factors, contribute to Northeast Florida’s health-care needs.

The study collected data from five of Northeast Florida’s counties — Baker, Nassau, Clay, St. Johns and Duval counties — with focus groups and town hall meetings.

The community’s greatest needs, the report said, are transportation, nutrition and physical activity, access to care, mental health treatment and solutions to health disparities.

The report also estimated that the population that is 65 or older will grow by 23 percent in five years.

One of the key issues facing communities across the country is physician shortage, the report said. “Current estimates predict a national shortage of between 46,100 and 90,400 active patient care physicians by 2025. … Various factors contribute to the anticipated shortages, including an increase in insurance coverage due to the Affordable Care Act, higher demand from an aging population, and a large proportion of the current workforce reaching retirement age.”

In Florida, there already aren’t enough doctors, the report said, and the number of primary-care physicians would need to increase by 38 percent just to maintain status quo. “In Duval County, between 6.8 and 17.9 percent of physicians are expected to retire within the next five years.”

Tom VanOsdol, chief operating officer at St. Vincent’s, said his hospital is trying to recruit more primary-care doctors, and it’s launching a fifth mobile unit that can meet the needs of residents who struggle with transportation.

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