Dallas health officials identified five zip codes as the most unhealthy. Here’s how they plan to fix it. – The Dallas Morning News

Posted: January 30, 2020 at 9:46 pm


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Laura Montoya, left, and Veronica Ocana, center, receive dental information from Jefferson Dental community manager Dely Acosta, right, during a health and safety fair at Pleasant Grove Christian Church in Dallas, Jan. 25, 2020. The fair hosted a variety of health and safety information, as well as free flu shots by the Dallas County Health Department, and free lab tests checking cholesterol, STDs, thyroid, diabetes and glucose levels. Ben Torres/Special Contributor

Three months ago, health officials diagnosed five zip codes in southern Dallas as the most unhealthy in the county. Today, the public gets its first look at treatment options.

Health leaders are set to brief more than 300 health care professionals, elected officials and community activists on their plan that they hope will reverse historic inequities and improve the countys overall well-being.

The presentation from Parkland Health & Hospital System and the Dallas County health department is a response to a tome of data the two groups published in October that put a heavy emphasis on five zip codes 75210, 75215, 75216, 75217 and 75241.

The response, however, focuses less on neighborhoods and more on specific chronic illnesses and other ailments such as pediatric asthma, breast cancer and mental health.

The plan builds on a shift at Parkland in recent years to provide more services away from its main campus in northwest Dallas, said Frederick Cerise, the hospitals president and CEO. And while there isnt a detailed list of interventions for each zip code, the strategies the hospital plans to put in place will have a strong and early focus on south and southeast Dallas.

We have to do more upstream, he said. Dallas is a big city. There are inequities that are pretty broad. And so the approach that were taking is: Where can we make an impact? Were gonna have to take this thing in bite-size pieces.

The plan, which is federally mandated by the Affordable Care Act and often referred to as a community health needs assessment, is still being fine-tuned. The hospital plans to include specific measurable goals next month and will regularly brief the Parkland board and county commissioners.

I hope everyone does hold us all accountable for this, said Dr. Philip Huang, director of the countys health department, which will play a critical role in data collection and prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Some of the strategies Parkland and the health department plan to adopt as part of their plan:

In an interview previewing the plan, Parkland officials suggested the work theyre about to do exceeds the federal mandate.

But that isnt hard to do, said Kevin Barnett, a researcher at the Public Health Institute who has studied hundreds of community health needs assessments.

Federal standards for these surveys and plans are lax and hospitals usually spend too much time on data collection something he suggested can be accomplished more easily than in the past and not on solutions.

Barnett suggested that if Parkland and the health department are serious about ending inequities in specific zip codes, a goal he applauded, they would provide as much real-time data as possible and work to drive down the number of preventable emergency room visits for chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

"If your focus is on compliance, you're not being serious, he said. We have to go far beyond that. Your commitment ought to be about improving equality.

Since October, health officials have stressed both a commitment to reversing stubborn inequities and the need for a countywide response that goes beyond what any hospital can do.

Community members and leaders echoed that call for partnership and holistic change.

Dorothy Hopkins, president and CEO of Frazier Revitalization, a nonprofit that is working to improve the neighborhood southeast of Fair Park, said Parkland and other elected officials must find the political will to improve the citys forgotten neighborhoods.

Of course every child over here has asthma because they all live in houses built in the 1920s, said Hopkins, who plans to attend Thursdays event. And while treatment is welcomed, addressing the underlying causes of asthma is paramount, she said.

Further south in Pleasant Grove, residents who attended a health fair on Saturday said they need better access to healthy food, safe transportation and a better understanding of what services are available to them.

Organic food doesnt exist in Pleasant Grove, said Chris Acosta, a father of four. Theres a vegan restaurant that most people cant afford.

Several other residents said they cant even begin to think about their health until they feel safe in their neighborhood.

Its not safe, said college student Alilisa Nelson. You cant go outside without worrying about what you might face and come up against. You have to worry about your safety.

Kurt Johanson, minister at Pleasant Grove Christian Church, which co-hosted the health fair, said the communitys No. 1 health issue is fear.

Fear of losing a job, fear of not being able to put food on the table," he said. "I dont know a single family that hasnt had some sort of crime against them.

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Dallas health officials identified five zip codes as the most unhealthy. Here's how they plan to fix it. - The Dallas Morning News

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January 30th, 2020 at 9:46 pm

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