State and territorial Primary Care Offices (PCOs) must complete a unique community-based health needs assessment as a component of their funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW), within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). PCOs receive direct guidance from BHW that identifies differences between a traditional PCO needs assessment and a community-based health needs assessment.
This issue brief is intended to build foundational knowledge regarding the PCO needs assessment, highlight the components that are unique to PCOs, and offer resources on promising practices identified through publicly available needs assessments and public health organizations.
Last month, representatives from 12 primary care offices (PCOs) attended the PCO Training Academy and Mentoring Kickoff meeting. The meeting, planned by NOSORH and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), was held at the ASTHO offices in Crystal City, VA.
The training academy brings together six selected mentors and six mentees as they undertake a formal mentoring experience. The kickoff meeting is the initial step in the mentoring experience where mentees are provided an orientation to the role of a PCO from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Bureau of Health Workforce. In addition, mentees learn about the PCO National Committee, traditional primary care access points, the evolution of primary care, and engage in a number of peer-led discussions leveraging the expertise of the mentors.
This year’s mentees come from the states of AR, DE, GA, ID, MS and VT. Experienced PCO staff from the states of CO, NE, NH, NY, TN and VA have been gracious with assisting their peers through mentoring. The PCO mentoring program is supported by NOSORH as a subcontract under ASTHO’s NOSLO Cooperative Agreement with HRSA. In addition to supporting the mentoring program, NOSORH also provides logistical support to the PCO National Committee and assists with the development of ASTHO resources for primary care and rural health issues.
Over the last several months, the collaboration between the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) has enabled a blossoming relationship between NOSORH and the PCO National Committee. NOSORH has been supporting the PCO National Committee with meeting logistics, surveys, and regular check-ins. Beth Kolf, NOSORH Project Coordinator, has been the lead working directly with the PCO National Committee chair and co-chair, Dianne Roberts (IL) and Tom Rauner (NE).
“When we first started this work with the PCO National Committee, I didn’t know much about the work of a PCO,” said Kolf. “I feel like working with them has helped me to better understand the work and needs of PCOs and see how that matches up with the work being done by the SORH. Not to mention, they are such a nice group, and I really enjoy working with them!”
At the most recent meeting of the PCO National Committee, results of a Technical Assistance survey were discussed that looked at the self-reported need for education and technical assistance. The most common requests were on the Shortage Designation Management System (SDMS), followed by Needs Assessment Best Practices and the HRSA DataWarehouse. NOSORH will be working alongside the Center for Health Workforce Studies and ASTHO to deliver education for PCOs through webinars and other effective learning formats.
In addition to the work focused on the PCO National Committee, Kolf manages the logistics for the PCO Mentoring program. All participants have been selected, including seven mentees and five mentors across the country. They will attend an in-person meeting at the ASTHO offices on April 17th and 18th to help develop specific objectives for the mentoring experience and provide a broad overview of the PCO program and its partners. Afterwards, mentors and mentees will receive travel support from ASTHO to make a site visit during the summer months and complete an evaluation of their time in the program.
In the upcoming months, a couple of resources will be made available through the partnership between NOSORH and ASTHO that will target SORH, PCO, and State and Territorial Health Officials. One report will look at the relationship between education and job skills training with health outcomes, and a brief on best practices for completing a PCO Needs Assessment will also be disseminated.
“The partnership with ASTHO continues to be enable NOSORH to assist our membership in new and important ways,” said Chris Salyers, Education and Services Director at NOSORH. “We are thankful for such a strong partnership with ASTHO. The chance to work closely with the PCO National Committee has been something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, and ASTHO helped us accomplish that goal.”
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and NOSORH collaborated on an issue brief about community health needs assessments (CHNAs). This issue brief provides an overview of the requirements and standards for some rural hospitals and health departments to conduct CHNAs. These exercises can help stakeholders to identify and address health problems in rural communities. They are also an opportunity for health systems and health departments to collaborate on similar activities that may be mandated by separate authorities and for them to leverage their requirements to become a means of addressing population health challenges in rural areas. The issue brief includes several state-specific examples of how these partnerships can be created and maintained at the state and local levels.
NOSORH would like to thank the following individuals for their participation in the interview process and for sharing their state-specific examples: Margaret Brockman (NE), Lara Brooks (OK), Natalie Claiborne (MT), Joyce Hospodar (AZ), and Karen Madden (NY).
In addition, ASTHO has updated the Primary Care Office Manual. The 2017 Primary Care Office Directors Manual provides essential information on the roles, responsibilities, and timelines for deliverables of PCO work. Although the PCO Manual was created with newly-hired PCO staff in mind, its reference materials can also be of use to veteran PCO directors and staff. This update reflects a number of recent changes to PCO work and responsibilities, including new reporting processes and deadlines, new informational resources, and federal agency reorganizations.
On April 18-19, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) hosted the PCO Training Academy Kick-Off at their offices in Arlington, Virginia. The PCO Training Academy is an orientation program for new PCO staff and provides a mentoring opportunity to pair new PCO staff with veteran staff. Presentations included shortage designation, meeting their project officers and strategic partnerships (SORH, PCA, etc.). During breakout sessions, mentors and mentees met to discuss the objectives of their mentoring program and strategies to accomplish the objectives over the next year.
In a joint presentation, Rachel Moscato (FORHP), Chris Salyers (NOSORH), and Tom Rauner (NE) provided an overview of the SORH program and opportunities for collaboration between SORH and their PCO offices. Special attention in the presentation was placed on the different SORH structures and opportunities available, regardless of the existing relationship a SORH may have with a PCO. The joint presentation can be accessed here.