September 7, 2021

Study by Desert Healthcare District Reveals Top Health Issues and Priorities

By Bob Marra

In 2020, the District and Foundation Board of Directors contracted with the Palm Desert-based Health Assessment and Research Communities (HARC) to conduct a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and Community Health Improvement Plan. It resulted in the Healthcare District and Foundation’s first valley-wide look at health needs after voters overwhelmingly approved expanding District boundaries east of Cook Street in November 2018.

Prior to the expansion, the Desert Healthcare District encompassed only western Coachella Valley communities since its origin in 1948. The newly expanded District now covers the region from Desert Hot Springs to the Salton Sea, representing more than 400,000 residents.

An important goal of the CHNA is to inform the development of a comprehensive, collective, and cross-sector approach to advancing community health and wellness, which is in alignment with the District’s mission to achieve optimal health at all stages of life for all District residents.

The CHNA shows how the expansion has transformed the District with a more diverse community, where inequities are self-evident and often concurrent with geographic isolation. It also captures the voices of community members and the significant differences that exist, both demographically and geographically.

“The Community Health Needs Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan are vital to the work we do as a Healthcare District,” said Conrado Barzaga, Desert Healthcare District and Foundation CEO. “For the first time in the District’s history, we now have evidenced-based data that provide a better understanding of the barriers to healthcare access and other challenges that traditionally underserved residents experience.  We aim to use this information to create a strategic plan that effectively allocates resources to build on the valley’s current healthcare infrastructure.”

Residents raised issues around the barriers to healthcare access, and data demonstrate that of the 1,006 hospital beds available in the Coachella Valley, 86% are geographically located in the west (Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage). It also shows a deficit of specialty care providers across the valley, particularly affecting emergency medicine, general surgery, OB/GYN, orthopedic surgery, pathology, pediatrics, radiology, psychiatry, and urology.

Collectively, the survey respondents also identified the following top five health priorities for the Coachella Valley (listed alphabetically):

  • Access to Care
  • Economic Stability
  • Education Access and Quality
  • Environment
  • Mental Health

With the report’s findings in mind, the District and Foundation Board and staff will soon begin working on a new strategic plan to meet the most pressing health needs in the District.

Access the full report by clicking here.


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