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                      Dedicated to Good Health for all Texans
Case Study

A NEW TOOL FOR DALLAS-FORT WORTH HEALTHCARE PLANNERS
By Nancy Williams, President, The Health Industry Council of the Dallas/Fort Worth Region, and Sue Pickens, Director Strategic Planning, Parkland Health and Hospital System, Dallas

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is not unlike other parts of Texas and the U.S. when it comes to experiencing a growing interest in improving personal and community health that spans all sectors and populations.

And, like most communities with large populations and diverse arrays of economic, social, educational and healthcare needs, the effort to harness this interest began with a comprehensive assessment of the region and its people.

In 2001, the Health Industry Council of the Dallas/Fort Worth Region took the lead by launching an initiative to determine just how healthy local residents are in the 16-county area. The Council-led initiative soon expanded into a broad-based effort that includes local health departments, public hospital systems, nonprofit and for-profit hospital systems, major healthcare funders and payors, and other interested members of the healthcare community.

Early on, members of this collaborative group turned to the Landscape Project as a valuable source of data and information about aspects of health status that ranged from each county’s current population density to how many cases of viral hepatitis they experienced in a recent year. With its more than 250 indicators, the Landscape Project quickly became an important tool for understanding the multidimensional aspects of health status and healthcare provision in the metroplex. Almost everything planners and the public need to know to determine the region’s current state of health is available from the Landscape Project.

Landscape Project information is enabling the Council to frame and answer increasingly complex questions about local health assets and needs. For example, Project data has been used to explore issues such as:

  • What are the strengths of the north Texas region in terms of health status and health care systems?
  • What risk factors are the most prevalent and in which populations are these risks most prominent?
  • What have the trends been in these factors over the past decade?
  • How does the region’s health status and healthcare assets compare to those of other regions with similar economic and social conditions?

Because the Landscape Project is an ongoing, continuing effort of the Texas Health Institute, the Council knows it can depend on having the same high-quality, comprehensive data available as a yardstick to gauge changes in the future. This makes Landscape information far superior to static data sets that provide "snap shots" of a region’s health at single points in time.

Because health status, healthcare status and the factors that impact them are dynamic, always moving forces, the Landscape Project’s emphasis on providing not only historical data, but also frequent updates really gives its data an advantage – particularly in a region that’s changing as rapidly as Dallas-Fort Worth.

For example, at Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas, strategic health planners are using Landscape data to further enhance Parkland’s leadership role in efforts to improve community health status, ensure appropriate resource allocation, prevent duplication of services, and justify its tax-exempt status and disproportionate share funding.

In 2001, Parkland presented a report generated by the Landscape Project to local community leaders as the finale for a series of discussions addressing health care issues in Dallas. Landscape Project data provided an important framework that is helping community leaders understand how demographic, social and economic changes have impacted the community. The information Parkland strategic planners derived from the Landscape Project data laid the groundwork for much of the health policy development that is now occurring at the local level.

Parkland has made Landscape Project data an integral part of The Dallas County Community Health Checkup. This information has provided the hospital and system with the ability to: a) understand the demographic shifts that are occurring in Dallas County; b) determine gaps in service and community need; c) identify epidemiological changes in Dallas County compared to surrounding counties; and, d) measure health system change in Dallas and the region as a whole.

Overall, the Landscape Project is providing the Dallas-Fort Worth region with an external source that informs and validates all of the extensive local research and analysis on health status and healthcare that’s presently underway. It’s an exciting new tool to help the region accomplish the big job of improving its health and health care systems.