Surveys aid in addressing social determinants in rural health

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Winning first place with their poster/presentation entry at the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative Annual Conference on Healthcare Transformation were, from left, Tracy Yelden, Kari Harbaugh, Robin Esmann and Sarah Meyer. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

A survey process that began this spring is assisting area health care providers with information to address social determinants in rural health.  

The survey is currently being provided to patients at Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics (GMHC), three Cornerstone Family Practice clinics, Emergency Department, Patient Care Unit and Family Resource Center.

The social determinants of health identified in the survey include: Mental Health, Utilities, Housing, Substance Abuse, Food, Transportation, Medications and Physical and Emotional Safety. 

Kari Harbaugh, Family Resource Center coordinator and staff support person, explained, "The survey helps us to identify where community members need additional support. It helps us to target the areas that are most prevalent on the surveys." 

The survey is comprised of ten questions. Eight of the questions provide the health care team with valuable information that indicates if the patient is in need of additional assistance in managing their health and well-being. Harbaugh said, "The information gathered thus far indicates that 25 percent of our community is facing issues with mental health and 22-25 percent are facing food insecurity." She went on to say, "This important information helps us as health care providers address needs efficiently and effectively. For example, we now bring in two therapists four days a week to address the community's mental health needs. Emergency needs are addressed within 48 hours."

GMHC staff and area agencies are now able to work together more closely to provide the care the community needs. 

Patients taking the survey may remain anonymous or can disclose their personal information if they wish to be contacted by an area agency or health care provider that can assist them with their needs. 

Patients have currently completed over 1,000 surveys. Over 100 of those patients requested additional support from the Family Resource Center. Harbaugh said, "There are many services available to income-eligible residents to offset the cost of prescriptions, energy costs and monthly rent. Our community has EARL transportation services that provide transportation to area residents at a minimal cost in addition to several mobile food pantries that provide pantry staples for individuals with food insecurity. We are here to help and just a phone call away. If the community does not utilize these services, we will lose them." 

Poster presentation winners

GMHC representatives Kari Harbaugh, Tracy Yelden, Sarah Meyer and Robin Esmann participated in the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative annual conference on Healthcare Transformation held in Des Moines in April. 

At the conference, the women participated in a poster presentation contest on the work being done through the Family Resource Center in addressing social determinants. The poster and 15-minute presentation category was "Achievement in Improving Community Service Integration." There were 31 poster presentations at the conference and the GMHC representatives won first place! 

The Family Resource Center is located at 514 S. River Park Drive. The hours of operation are Monday - Thursday 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. - noon. For additional information about the survey or services available call (563) 252-3215 or visit

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