St. Catherine nationally recognized




St. Catherine Hospital and the Finney County Community Health Coalition have landed in the national spotlight.

The hospital, on behalf of the local health coalition, is one of five in the United States to receive the 2014 American Hospital Association (AHA) NOVA Award.

The AHA NOVA Award recognizes hospitals and health systems for collaborative efforts toward improving community health. The AHA is a non-profit association of health-care-provider organizations and individuals committed to improving the health of people in their communities.

Founded in 1898, the AHA is the national advocate for its members, including nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks and other care providers.

St. Catherine applied for the award in December 2013 and recently learned it had been chosen for the prestigious recognition.

"This is not only an award for the hospital and coalition, but for Garden City," Edward Smink, the hospital's executive director of mission and ministry, said. "It's national attention for the work the community is doing through the coalition for the health and well-being of the people of Finney County. It's a gift to Garden City and Finney County to have this recognition."

The AHA will present the award at a ceremony during the Health Forum/AHA Leadership Summit on July 22 in San Diego, Calif., to Smink and Verna Weber, executive director of the Finney County Community Health Coalition.

A local celebration is planned at the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce membership breakfast on July 16. Breakfast begins at 7:30 a.m. at The Golf Club at Southwind.

Weber said the hospital and coalition work hand-in-hand. St. Catherine has provided support, leadership, office space, grants and has a permanent member on the coalition's board of the directors. Weber pointed to the Strategic Prevention Framework State Initiative Grant, to reduce and prevent underage drinking, as playing a big part in receiving the award.

"The success we've been able to show has been amazing by reducing underage drinking," she said. "It really is an attitude that not one agency can do it, but, by calling the whole community together, we all can be successful."

Matt Allen, city manger of Garden City, said the health coalition has been instrumental in a number of important initiatives, including a clean air ordinance and healthy eating/active living initiatives.

"It speaks well of the hospital and the community health coalition, which really is that collaborative health engine in the community," he said, describing their role as key to community growth and development, especially in light of the state's recent drop in health rankings from eighth to 27th.

"If we are, as a state and as a community within the state, going to address this, it's going to be through collaborative efforts," Allen said. "It's not going to be any one group's responsibility."

The coalition also has been successful with the Catholic Heath Initiative in creating the Center for Children and Families — which serves as the office for the coalition — and the Linking Actions to Unmet Needs in Children's Health (LAUNCH) Project.

For Finney County, the $3.4 million grant served more than 600 families through a variety of services, such as Russell Child Development Center, USD 457 Parent Teacher Organization, Compass Behavioral Health and the Kansas Children's Service League. The Project LAUNCH initiative was intended to improve outcomes at the individual and community levels by addressing risk factors that can lead to negative situations.

Smink, the liaison between the hospital and the health coalition, said the underage drinking percentage went down from 34 percent to 17 percent in Finney County. He also praised the focus of the coalition in joining together to work with community partners and providing safety and health care for the community.

"They are fulfilling our mission at St. Catherine and fulfilling their own mission, which is providing health and safety for the community," Smink said.

St. Catherine started the coalition to improve community health, but the coalition outgrew the hospital's ability to serve as its fiscal agent. The hospital encouraged the coalition to become its own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization after receiving significant grant funding to improve the community over the years. In 13 years, the coalition has received some $3.5 million to $4 million in grants as they took on various projects to aid the community.

As for the AHA NOVA award, Weber stressed it's not about one organization, but the community coming together as one to further improve health and take action to solve problems.

"I think it's very rewarding," she said. "It shows the capability of bringing people together to work for the common good of the community."

The other hospitals receiving awards are: FirstReach: FirstHealth of the Carolinas, Pinehurst, N.C.; Children's Hospital Center for Pediatric Medicine Asthma Action Team: Greenville Health System, Greenville, S.C.; Let's Go!; The Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center, Portland, Maine; and Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm (HONU) Project: New Ulm Medical Center, part of Allina Health, New Ulm, Minn.

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