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Essentia Health hospitals work with local groups to identify health needs and improve community health

As the region’s premier healthcare provider, Essentia is committed to caring for patients who seek services within its walls — and to working outside its walls to improve the overall health and wellness of the communities it serves.

Just like patients, each community has unique needs. To determine what those needs are, the non-profit health system conducts a community needs assessment every three years in each community that is home to one of its 15 hospitals.Town hall meetings, focus groups, and surveys are among the ways Essentia gathers information on what is important to people.

“We look at what needs are identified in each community, then come up with a strategic plan to address those needs,” says Kayla Keigley, Essentia Health’s program manager of Community Health. “It’s a community-driven process focused on collaboration between public health data, local surveys, and community conversations.”

According to Keigley, the key to gathering accurate data is to get input from a wide range of community members, particularly those who are medically underserved and those in minority communities. Often, common themes emerge through the discussions – issues like mental health and obesity.

“We can hone in on a region and determine where we can have the biggest impact,” she says. “Then we can focus our attention and direct our collective energies into change that will help our patients right where they live and work.”

Detroit Lakes is one of the 15 communities surveyed and the assessment identified improved nutrition and increase in activities as top priorities. The implementation strategies include increasing both the number of diabetes prevention classes, but also the locations and increasing access to healthy foods.

“Our Community Health Needs Assessment was done in collaboration with Becker County Public Health, and is a great opportunity to work together to better understand the health issues and needs in our community,” says Peter Jacobson, Essentia Health St. Mary’s-Detroit Lakes President and Senior Vice President of Regional and Primary Care for Essentia Health’s West Region.

“We are now beginning to use this information to collaborate and partner with people and organizations with a common passion for improving health through Becker County Energize. I am very excited about the potential that exists through partnerships to improve overall health, which ultimately can improve the quality of life for people in our community.”

Jacobson says more information about Becker County Energize will be available in the coming weeks and months and invites everyone to engage in this health movement.

Community Health Needs Assessments are posted publicly online at