© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Why community health is an increasing priority for St. Louis hospitals

SSM Health DePaul Hospital, photographed on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 in Bridgeton, Mo. SSM has announced the hospital’s trauma center, the last state-designated trauma center in north St. Louis County, will be shut down.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
SSM Health DePaul Hospital, photographed on Aug. 1, 2023, in Bridgeton.

Despite the vast amount of money spent on health care in the U.S., its population is relatively unhealthy. Dr. Alexander Garza, the chief community health officer at SSM Health, believes that improving health outcomes in the St. Louis community starts well before patients walk through clinic or hospital doors.

“In order for us to get ahead of the growth curve of the number of people that have illness in the United States, we have to focus far upstream on social needs,” Garza said. “If you don't have a walkable neighborhood, if you live in poor housing, exposure to lead — all of those different things impact health.”

It’s Garza’s hope that a joint effort between local hospital systems will result in improved health outcomes in St. Louis.

Not-for-profit health systems like SSM Health must conduct a Community Health Needs Assessment every three years to comply with the Affordable Care Act. The assessments help hospitals identify community needs, so they can focus time, talent and resources toward meeting those needs in the coming years. For this year’s assessment, SSM Health is partnering with BJC HealthCare, Mercy, St. Luke's Hospital and Shriners Children's St. Louis on a community survey and series of community listening sessions.

Karen Bradshaw and Dr. Alexander Garza
Emily Woodbury
Karen Bradshaw and Dr. Alexander Garza

“As we ask questions together, as we listen intently together … it's going to help us do our work closer aligned,” said Karen Bradshaw, regional director of community health at SSM Health.

Dr. Alexander Garza and Karen Bradshaw joined St. Louis on the Air to talk about the upcoming community health survey and the importance of paying attention to social determinants of health like food access, education, economic stability, housing, basic amenities and the environment. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or by clicking the play button below.

Related Event
What: St. Louis Area Health Needs Survey, as well as a series of community conversations in July and August (dates and locations to be determined)

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Ulaa Kuziez, Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Roshae Hemmings is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

Stay Connected
Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.