Health district polls residents to check on system’s strength
If you’ve been to a Travis County farmers market in recent weeks, you might have seen them: people in their 20s in bright orange T-shirts printed with purple dialogue boxes that say, “Join In a Healthy Conversation.”
They are trying to take the community’s pulse on behalf of Central Health, formerly the Travis County Healthcare District. District officials want to know how well the health care delivery system is working — or not working. But they also want to use the “listening project” to raise the district’s profile.
“The goal is to find out what the community wants and letting the commu- nity know who we are and that we are there and ready to work with them,” said Dr. Tom Coopwood, Central Health board chairman.
The project, called the Central Health Connection Initiative, is expected to cost up to $400,000 under an 18-month contract with SUMA/Orchard Social Marketing Inc., an Austin consulting firm.
SUMA/Orchard has been working on community outreach, including focus group meetings and a phone survey that asked 541 respondents where they go for care, how easy it is to get and how satisfied they are.
The survey also asked people about their insurance status and the feder-
al health care law, as well as whether they would favor Central Health expanding services and would pay higher taxes to finance those services.
By midweek, it had gathered comments from about 825 people, including phone survey participants, and it hopes to interview at least “a couple of thousand” people at community events, said Christie Garbe, a spokeswoman for Central Health. It’s the first time the district has directly asked consumers about services, she said.
On Wednesday morning, as rain interrupted a blazing sun outside a small farmers market at the Rosewood Zaragosa Health Center on Webberville Road, outreach leader Julia Winston and two outreach workers stood under a white tent, asking passers-by whether they wanted to take a short survey about the health care system.
Some people hurried by, but about 14 took the survey over a two-hour period, receiving small packets of sunscreen and aloe for participating. Others chatted briefly and took brochures, and a few indicated interest in taking the survey online at http://centralhealthconnection.net.
Outreach workers Jose Mendoza and Michael Abrams interviewed many of the Hispanic clients in Spanish.
Laura Rodriguez, 33, who came with her 4-year-old daughter, Emily Hernandez, said she had to wait a couple of months to get an appointment and questioned why she had to wait so long when she was sick. She was among many respondents that morning who suggested that more appointments be made available.
Abrams said he has detected common themes since the project started: “People want easier access (to health care services), and they want that access to be cheaper. And they don’t want to wait to see a doctor.”
Over the next couple of months, outreach teams plan to be at farmers markets, outdoor concerts and other events. Central Health uses property tax money to provide health care services to uninsured and underinsured people in Travis County in partnership with hospitals, clinics and other health organizations.
It plans to produce a report on the project’s findings, along with recommendations for its board to consider.
“Our thought was, let’s ask the people who use the services,” said senior health planner Ellen Richards, the project’s leader. “It’s information Central Health could use or our partners can use.”
Central Health outreach worker Jose Mendoza, left, talks Wednesday with Abigail Lopez and Alfredo Ruiz Gonzalez outside the Rosewood Zaragosa Health Center.