St. Joseph Mercy targeting community health improvements

Through a year-long health needs assessment at three of its five ministries, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System (SJMHS) has determined the greatest health needs of the communities served by its hospitals.

The Community Health Needs Assessment is a requirement of all tax-exempt hospitals established as part of the Affordable Care Act and overseen by the Internal Revenue Service that must be conducted every three years by non-profit hospitals.

“As a health system, we took this opportunity to develop a data-driven approach to truly understand the health needs of our community,” said Dave Spivey, president and CEO, St. Mary Mercy Livonia and vice president, Community Health & Well-being, Michigan. “Not only does this requirement demonstrate our value but it helps us live out our mission to be a compassionate, transforming, healing presence in our community.”

Focused on Livingston County, the assessment included an in-depth review of national, state and local data; key stakeholder interviews and community focus groups.  Obesity, behavioral health, and access to care were identified due to the size and severity of the issues and the health system’s ability to have a meaningful impact.

Community members identified obesity, food access, and cardiovascular disease as priority concerns in the community.  While the percent of overweight or obese adults in the county is on par with the state, this percentage shows a continued increase over time.

In addition, behavioral health was one of the most prevalent issues discussed in both key stakeholder interviews and focus groups. Both suicide and drug overdose rates in the county are above the state rates. Alcohol consumption, including both binge drinking and heavy drinking, has consistently been higher in Livingston County adults than overall Michigan adults.  Access to care is a concern for many community members; the ratios of physicians to community members across primary care and specialties is much lower than the state and national ratios.

As a regional system across metro Detroit that is part of Trinity Health, a leading national Catholic health system, St. Joe’s has a tremendous opportunity to address problems before they turn into negative health outcomes.

Strategies to address these needs in Livingston County include:

  • Support schools with education and prevention strategies around behavioral health and weight management.
  • Improve community access to nutritious foods.
  • Address access to care barriers such as transportation, awareness of insurance benefits and the number of providers available to meet community need.
  • Improve behavioral health in the community by preventing suicide, improving access to behavioral health services and reducing the use of alcohol.

St. Joseph Mercy Livingston has developed an implementation plan to address these health issues, working closely with community partners to improve the coordination and support for existing community resources that address these needs.

John O’Malley

“Aligning our work with community partners is essential to ensure truly transformational change in the community,” said John O’Malley, president, St. Joseph Mercy Livingston and Brighton.

Last year, Trinity’s Health’s Michigan-based health system, which includes Saint Joseph Mercy Health System and Mercy Health, returned $193 million to the community through community benefit programs and charity care.

To learn more, the most recent Community Health Needs Assessment Reports from all five SJMHS hospitals can be downloaded at

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The Livingston Post is the only locally owned, all-digital information and opinion site in Livingston County, Mich. It was launched by award-winning journalists who were laid off from the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus by Gannett Co. Inc. in 2009.