Health Providers Use Chronic Absence Data to Understand Community Needs

  • August 7, 2019
In A Classroom, Young Girl Sits At A Table With Her Right Hand Raised And Her Left Hand Touching A Lettuce Leaf.

For several years, HSC has been talking on the blog, through our reports and through our recent Here + Healthy campaign about the importance of understanding and addressing the health related causes of chronic absenteeism.

We often discuss this issue from the education side, considering how state and district education decision makers can increase access to school health services and consider student health and wellness in their school improvement planning process. But there are also exciting new opportunities in the health sector, as healthcare and public health systems begin to act on their understanding that health isn’t only an issue for the doctor’s office.

Recently, Trinity Health, which serves communities across the country with 94 hospitals and hundreds of primary, specialty and continuing care centers in 22 states, was in the process of revising their Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) process. Trinity Health has always stressed the importance of assessing “social influencers of health,” such as education, and this year they made an intentional commitment to standardize how they collect and report these indicators. Trinity Health now captures approximately 100 standard indicators, including chronic absence rates.

According to Jaime Dircksen, Vice President for Community Health & Well-Being at Trinity Health, HSC’s Here + Healthy Campaign and other awareness raising activities around chronic absenteeism were a core element of Trinity Health’s recent decision to include chronic absence as a measure in their new CHNA guidelines for 2020. Before working with HSC, Trinity Health was not aware of how health-related absences could impact educational success and graduation rates — or of how common chronic absence was.

When Trinity Health hospitals release their CHNAs in June 2020, chronic absence rates will be included. This is important because CHNAs are used to inform the way non-profit hospitals invest in their communities to support health and wellness. By reviewing and reporting on chronic absence, hospitals will better understand the role education plays in health and this could drive new partnerships between hospitals and schools to address this issue. Trinity Health is already starting to raise awareness about the issue with their stakeholders through videos and webinars.

We are excited to continue working with Trinity Health, and other health and public health stakeholders as they develop innovative programs and practices to address the health related causes of chronic absenteeism.