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New community study finds ongoing health disparities in southern Dallas County

 The 2022 CHNA found some improvement in access to health care, but more remains to be done.
Parkland Health and Hospital System
Parkland Health and Hospital System
The 2022 CHNA found some improvement in access to health care, but more remains to be done.

Five ZIP codes in the region identified in the 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) continue to have the greatest disparities. Parkland Hospital Vice President Jessica Hernandez talks with KERA's Sam Baker about the difficulties in serving those areas.

Difficulties with addressing ongoing health disparities

I always like to say that to truly impact some of the numbers that we're seeing across Dallas County, whether it be hypertension or diabetes or cancer, we really need to start with our children because at the point where we are interacting with adults, unfortunately, they are already battling with some of these chronic diseases. And so what we really need to do is start very early in terms of prevention.

When we're talking about factors that are impacting, are we talking about social, economic, educational?

All of the above. As part of the strategy that we have in addition to providing care, Parkland understands that we are a large organization that can impact an individual's ability to increase their economic opportunity.

And so part of what we have done, for example, when we opened the Redbird Health Center, which was an attempt to increase access in the right location, identified areas of need, we also held health workforce fairs and partnered with the Commission to offer opportunities of employment for individuals because we understand that education and employment can do is can provide a significant improvement in a family's ability to access care that would help them, you know, improve their quality of life.

We also look at the number of individuals that we hire from these priority ZIP codes and look to provide opportunities for individuals to seek support if they are seeking educational opportunities, skills training, and employment through Parkland.

So the more education they have, the more training they have, the more likely they are to find employment and therefore have access to health care? 

Through having insurance, absolutely. Not only for themselves but for their families.

And I think that is one of the first things that we recognized when we set upon this work, that while we certainly treat at an individual level in health care what individuals learn about how to care for themselves and be healthy and whether we are able to provide coverage through our patient financial assistance that usually extends to the family that lives in that household.

To what extent did COVID-19 impact your efforts and impact those communities since the last survey? 

It did delay us because of the social distancing and the medical advice to isolate from others.

However, COVID also taught us how to better reach some of the communities. You know, a good example is our pediatric asthma. We enrolled families in a text messaging program. The medical outcomes show us that individuals that are enrolled for six months or more in that text messaging program have fewer E.R. visits. They filled their medications timely. And we're looking to quantify that the children are missing less school because of this.

So, we began to think in terms of hypertension, one of the highest chronic diseases. How can we utilize a text messaging program to make an impact on that group of individuals? Would it translate? Is it cost- effective to do so?

So, we learn from the programs that we implement and hope to continue to improve how we serve patients because there's no one size fits all.


2022 Dallas County Community Health Needs Assessment

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.