Engaging the Community in Shaping Strategic Initiatives at SVHC

Working with Community Organizations — Southwestern Vermont Health Care is proud to work with a variety of local organizations who share our vision of healthier communities. We are active in the Southshire Substance Abuse Coalition, the Bennington County School to Workforce Partnership, and Southern Vermont Area Health Education Center. We also lead or participate in a wide range of support groups in our service area.

In addition, SVHC was instrumental in forming Healthy Community Partnerships in each of four sectors of our service area. We convened community members from the health care, social services, education, local government, and civic organizations and worked together to do periodic community needs assessments. These assessments included interviews, focus groups, household surveys, as well as a survey and synopsis of existing health data. The partnerships prioritize issues, develop projects, and pool resources and/or pursue grants to execute projects and initiatives to meet those identified community needs. While at one time we were the convener and de-facto chairs of these partnerships, they are now mature with their own leadership and SVHC acts as a supportive partner. Ongoing dialogue with these organizations continues to inform planning at SVHC.

Regional Advisory Boards (RABS) — SVHC recruited RABS with a two-fold purpose, to assist SVHC in fundraising and to be advisors on needs in their communities. The local community insight of these volunteer boards is critical to developing a healthcare system that meets the community’s needs.

Regular communication with identified opinion leaders — SVHC has compiled a roster of opinion leaders across our service area and engage in regular contact through a series of informational updates each year. Opinion leaders are encouraged to bring comments and concerns to our Community Relations staff and/or our Board of Trustees.

Public meetings — SVHC has periodically announced public meetings for the purpose of garnering input on community needs and/or its strategic plan. We will be scheduling town hall style meetings for mid to late summer 2011 to discuss the new strategic and master facility plans for SVHC.

Participation on local boards and civic groups — A number of SVHC’s leadership team participate on local economic and business development boards and civic clubs. While not a formal channel to our strategic planning process, knowledge of the community gained from this participation is brought to the planning table.

In 2011, we will launch a new channel for community members and SVHC to work together to build the health system of the future, The Patient & Family Advisory Council. This team of community members, physicians and operational leaders will help focus resources on the best opportunities to expand access, enhance patient safety and improve the patient experience. Consumers interested in learning about opportunities to participate in processes contributing to strategic planning and/or community needs assessment can do so by contacting Leslie Keefe, Vice President of Corporate Development, via the channels below.

Phone: 802-447-5425

Fax: 802-440-4031


Mail: Leslie Keefe

              Southwestern Vermont Health Care Foundation

              100 Hospital Drive

              Bennington, VT 05201

SVHC’s Strategic Initiatives

Early in 2011, a team of SVHC management and physician leaders completed a new strategic plan for the health system. Development of the plan considered healthcare utilization data, population demographics and a community survey. The bold plan that emerged strives to make SVHC one of the best rural healthcare delivery systems in the nation. The plan builds on our mission, vision and values and sets forth 7 strategic initiatives (see below). The strategic plan was crafted as a “living document”, allowing flexibility in these uncertain times of healthcare reform, yet the plan ensures a constant focus the needs of the community. The 7 strategies in the plan work together to transform the health system with the goals of enhancing the quality and safety of the care we deliver, enhance access and improve the patient experience while reducing the cost of care, improving efficiency and ensuring financial stability of SVHC.

  • SVHC’s Mission — SVHC exists to provide exceptional health care and comfort to the people we serve.
  • SVHC’s Vision — SVHC is recognized as a preeminent, rural, integrated health care system that provides exceptional, convenient, safe, and affordable care.
  • SVHC’s QuEST Values — Quality, Empathy, Safety, Teamwork
  • SVHC’s 7 strategies 
    • Strategy 1: Develop a partnership with an academic tertiary medical center
    • Strategy 2: Create a multi-specialty physician group
    • Strategy 3: Invest in our people
    • Strategy 4: Evaluate/prioritize locations and services
    • Strategy 5: Improve efficiency, effectiveness, and safety of the patient experience.
    • Strategy 6: Leverage information technology to improve the outcomes of care.
    • Strategy 7: Enhance community, regional, and state support for SVHC.

With communication with and support from the community, execution of these strategies will advance SVHC as one of the best healthcare systems in the nation.

Acting on Community Need

From November 2011 to April 2012, Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) conducted a Community Needs Assessment in response to requirements within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Geographically, this assessment reflects the largest portions of SVHC’s service area: Bennington County, Vt., the Deerfield Valley of Windham County Vt., the greater Hoosick area in Rensselaer County, N.Y., and Cambridge, in Washington County, N.Y. (Partial funding in support of this effort was provided through a mini-grant sponsored by the Vermont Department of Health.)

The assessment analyzed quantitative and qualitative data to create a comprehensive overview of regional need. Then, SVMC worked with local stakeholders to prioritize the needs. The final prioritized Community Needs Assessment was approved by SVHC’s Board of Trustees. What follows is a summary of the report. You can read the full report here.

Quantitative Data:

To help ensure data collection uniformity statewide, the Vermont Dept. of Health created and promoted a master list of health indicators. This list focused on 38 indicators in the following categories: Population Demographics, Access to Health Services, Emergency Department Presentations, Healthy Lifestyles – Risk Behaviors and Conditions, Maternal and Child Health, Health Status and Prevention. From this list, comparative data sets were developed to indicate disparities between county averages and state averages. Common reports such as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, County Health Rankings were a few of the several reports used to populate our indicator list. Unfortunately, comparable data from New York communities in SVMC’s service was not always available as the New York Department of Health only publishes data on a regional level.

Quantitative Data:

Quantitative resources were developed using the input of subject matter experts who served on our CNA Steering Committee to provide oversight and guidance. This group consisted of a wide variety of public health professionals and social service leaders from throughout the region. Individual consultations with steering committee members to provide interpretation of the data were conducted throughout the CNA process.

Seven separate, in-depth focus groups were conducted involving 63 community members and leaders from multiple sectors in both Vermont and New York communities. Specific community dialogues with local school health professionals and members of a regional Early Childhood Council were held. For all focus groups, areas of need were identified, and then prioritized and ideas for an implementation plan were developed by the participants.

The report also draws on additional qualitative research from external sources such as, the Bennington County Community Profile (2008), Vermont Department of Health Service Plans (2010) and the Adirondack Rural Health Network’s Health Assessment & Community Service Plan (2011). These reports reflect a strong use of community voice and engagement and allowed for an avoidance of duplicative efforts to determine the areas of health needs.


Overall, the results show remarkable similarity of need across the SVMC service area, with minor differences in prioritization between New York and Vermont communities.

In Vermont, the top resulting areas of need identified are:

  1. Mental and Behavioral Health
  2. Substance Abuse
  3. Physical Fitness
  4. Nutrition and Wellness
  5. Chronic Disease Prevention.

In New York:

  1. Mental and Behavioral Health,
  2. Substance Abuse (with specific emphasis on smoking and alcohol use)
  3. Physical Fitness,
  4. Prenatal Care
  5. Access to Care issues (with emphasis on transportation to services.)

Implementation Planning:

SVMC is retooling its Community Health and Wellness programs as part of an implementation plan designed to begin to address the underlying issues of which these community needs are symptoms. It's future focus will fall into three main areas:

  • Wellness and Health Programming: continue to develop and offer programs designed to teach residents in our service area how to lead healthier lives.
  • Health and Social Policy Initiatives: work with community leaders to determine how governmental policies support or undermine the area's ability to create healthy communities and work to better align policy with community and public health.
  • Seek Out Grant Funding: look for opportunities to draw in experts and grant funding from national sources, such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that can support a broader range of thought and activity in the community focused on health.

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