Summit County health care reform tracked with Health is Local project
While data on the effects of new health care laws and policies will take time to track, the statewide impact of health reform is being told now through individual stories of Coloradans living with the changes.
A new project, HealthIsLocal.org, from the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved (CCMU), has started to collect health reform experiences from four Colorado communities, including Summit County. Health is Local includes interviews from local health care leaders, videos, data and input from locals, with the goal of spotlighting Colorado’s health reform as it’s happening.
The other communities are Montrose and Yuma counties, and the city of Colorado Springs. CCMU spokeswoman Sarah Mapes said these areas were chosen to represent the diversity of urban, western slope, mountain resort and eastern plains areas of the state.
“We wanted to find a way to help evaluate and tell the story as it’s happening, so we can make sure the people who have the power to change things have some real-time information,” she said.
Initial visits were conducted at the end of 2013 to gather baseline information, local perceptions and an understanding of each community’s preparation for the upcoming changes, she said. Now, with the website up and running, CCMU plans to follow each community for the rest of the year, and hopefully into the future. The impacts will be documented over time with both reflections from community members and analysis of statewide themes. Right now, the Summit County section of Health is Local features a few stories from local residents.
Mapes said the goal is really to help leaders measure progress, and make changes.
“It’s hard to measure the impact until you’re farther down the road,” she said. “It could take a decade to know what the total impact will be of this health care reform. But that’s not helpful in making course corrections or adding new pieces.”
Mapes said her team is looking beyond the hard data regarding just numbers of insured or uninsured people at issues like access to care. Down the road, the project will also address if people are getting healthier in general.
“One of the most valuable ways we can contribute to improving the health care system in Colorado is to make sure we connect the voices of individuals and communities to the overall state,” she said.
Sarah Vaine, CEO of Summit Community Care Clinic, is the community leader for the Summit County section of the project. For her part of the project, she wrote: “It is unclear how health care reform will play out over time, but there are certainly good things happening at the local level along with challenges that must be addressed. We’re just in the baby steps of these changes. It’s more of a marathon than a sprint, and there is a lot of possibility.”
Mapes said so far, what has been most interesting is to see how different and yet similar the communities are. For instance, the high cost of health care has been a constant topic in Summit County, making national headlines and spurring community governments to protest with the state. There are also high costs in Yuma, but there, Mapes said, the community will hold fundraisers to help individuals with the costs.
Joe Sammen, CCMU director of community initiatives, said: “What we saw across all communities … were local solutions to local problems that were designed with the unique needs of community members in mind.”
Health is Local will be adding a form to the website within the next week for others to share their stories and feedback as well.
“Our ultimate goal is to understand what the impact is, and how we can do better as well,” Mapes said. “It’s important to understand this at the community level, and roll that up into the state conversation.”
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