On Discover Your Community Day, Gerber Memorial shines spotlight on community health
By Randy Stasik, President and CEO, Gerber Memorial
Last week, Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial was fortunate to host more than 25 visitors during Discover Your Community Day, a recurring event by the Fremont Area Community Foundation to introduce people to Newaygo County. These visitors range from new leaders to ordinary residents who recently moved. It’s a great way for them to learn about the resources and people in our community.
When our visitors stopped by Gerber Memorial and Tamarac for a tour, I shared with them our milestones and metrics. Every year, Gerber Memorial’s Birth Center delivers more than 550 babies into the world. We perform more than 2,500 surgical procedures. We treat more than 28,000 patients in our emergency department.
And though we’re a small hospital, we offer state-of-the-art treatment: MRIs, 3D mammography and cancer care, as well as behavioral medicine, sleep studies, pulmonology and other specialist services through our high-tech MedNow telehealth service. By using MedNow, patients don’t have to travel, they save money, and they get care near home.
Our efforts have rightfully earned Gerber Memorial recognition, including being named a national Top 25 Rural Hospital. (When the United States has about 1,900 rural hospitals, being in the Top 25 is an achievement we and our community can be proud of).
During Discover Your Community Day, however, I wanted to share one additional aspect of Gerber Memorial with our visitors. I wanted them to know that Gerber Memorial is constantly looking to help improve the health of our whole community.
One example is our effort to improve patient access to healthcare. Like many rural communities in the United States, Newaygo County faces the challenge of having enough healthcare providers to meet patient needs. To address this, we opened two Convenient Care Walk-In Clinics, in Fremont and Newaygo, that have extended hours. The Fremont clinic is open on Saturdays. Patients can see a health provider quicker now, without having to wait to get an illness or injury treated and without having to go to the emergency department.
Another example is our commitment to the overall health of our community: Every three years, Gerber Memorial does a community health needs assessment to identify what chronic diseases and conditions need our attention. The most recent assessment told us that smoking, obesity and diabetes are three top challenges in our community.
As a response, we are aggressively steering people to our quit tobacco programs, which specifically target youth as well as pregnant women who smoke.
To tackle obesity and diabetes, we are reaching out to one source that could influence generational change: our children. Through a nationally recognized program that Gerber Memorial is spearheading called the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH), we are helping schools incorporate education about good nutrition and physical activity into the daily curriculum. After a pilot year involving two school districts, we expanded to all five districts in Newaygo County this school year. And we are already seeing results, with anecdotes of parents and staff saying how kids’ new awareness about good eating habits is carrying over into their homes. Families that once stayed away from Brussels sprouts and broccoli are now adding these and other nutritious foods into their diets.
Community engagement is a two-way street, and Gerber Memorial will always remain grateful for the support we’ve received from our community over nearly 100 years. The fact is, we are blessed by a community that believes in giving back.
Paul Bedient, the director of our foundation, told our visitors that the community’s generosity has helped in so many concrete ways, from the construction of our state-of-the-art emergency department to the many upgrades in our cancer center, thanks to our annual golf outings in spring. The two-way relationship between Gerber Memorial and our community is helping make Newaygo County healthier.
Josh Gustafson, director of our community health team, summed it up best when he said that the mission of our hospital isn’t just healthcare for individuals, but the overall health and wellbeing of the entire community.
In 2015, Newaygo County was one of the least healthy counties in Michigan, ranked 64th out of 83 counties. In 2016, Newaygo County climbed to 47.
We are making progress. We are confident we can achieve our stated goal of being Michigan’s healthiest county in the near future. And Gerber Memorial is honored to be part of a community that truly cares.
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