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story.lead_photo.caption Cole County Communities held a meeting Thursday at the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce. The Central Missouri Community Health Assessment Partnership is seeking to increase awareness and build support for health needs and health access improvement strategies. Photo by Mark Wilson / California Democrat.

Community input is necessary for an accurate assessment of the area's health care needs.

Beginning next week, the Central Missouri Community Health Assessment Partnership will hold community discussions to allow people to share their insight, perceptions and experiences with health services in Central Missouri.

Representatives of the partnership — made up of Capital Region Medical Center, SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital, Jefferson City Medical Group, Community Health Center of Central Missouri, the United Way of Central Missouri and county health departments — on Thursday explained the process to the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce's Cole County Communities Committee and asked its members to attend meetings and encourage others to do so.

The Affordable Care Act set up new rules that require health care providers — particularly hospitals — to conduct community-wide health assessments every three years, said Bev Stafford of St. Mary's Hospital.

"We were to do it in a collaborative fashion within the communities we serve," Stafford said. "And do it with broad community input and publish a report."

Hospitals were to work with partners in their communities to develop strategies, interventions and health access. There is broad input in the partnership from organizations that serve communities' health needs, she said.

"Overall, our project develops understanding and awareness of health issues," she said.

The project includes looking at health environments — those factors within the environment, such as behaviors, socio-economic conditions, actual health and other data — that affect people's health, she said.

"We're not out in communities looking for consensus," Stafford said. "We're just listening, hearing and certainly seeing what rises to the top."

The partnership found, in 2012, area priorities or concerns were access to care, heart disease or obesity, cancer screenings or prevention, diabetes prevention and management, and the general health status of Miller County.

In 2015, the partnership decided to search a little deeper, according to Kristi Campbell, director of the Cole County Health Department.

The 2015 data showed the priorities were first heart disease or obesity, followed by mental health services; access, health literacy and education; substance abuse; and adult oral health.

After two cycles of the assessments, communities are starting to see health care providers bring care that's focused on the concerns.

The 2012 data gave health care providers an "Aha! moment," Stafford said, in which they realized many people weren't getting health screenings often enough.

The organizations found one of the greatest benefits of creating the partnership and conducting the surveys was it caused the health care providers to work with each other.

"One of our responsibilities is to prevent illness and disease in communities and promote good health," Campbell said. "We want to know what's going on in your communities so we know what kinds of programs to promote."

The partnership is inviting community members to fill out a survey at

It also asks people to attend discussions beginning next week, so it can learn more details about what health services might be necessary for communities. There will be two meetings in Cole County and one each in Osage, Callaway, Moniteau and Miller counties. Please RSVP to the events.

The meetings in Cole County are 8-9:30 a.m. Wednesday, and 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday at Hawthorn Bank Community Room, 3600 Amazonas Drive, Jefferson City. RSVP by calling 681-3742 or by email at

Osage County is 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday at St. Johns United Methodist Church, 920 E. Main St., Linn. RSVP at 681-3742 or

Callaway County is 9-10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Callaway County Health Department, 4950 County Road 304, Fulton. RSVP at 642-6881 ext. 223 or

Moniteau County is noon-1 p.m. Thursday at the California City Hall, 500 S. Oak St. RSVP at 796-3412 or

Miller County is 5-7 p.m. April 30 at Warehouse 55, 302 E. North St., Eldon. RSVP at 369-2359 or