A Message from a Rising Star Allison Piersall

Thank you all for inviting me to share my field study as I complete my Masters in Public Health with the University of New England. For my MPH field study I am working with Bi-State Primary Care Association. Bi-State supports Federally-Qualified and Community Health Centers in both Vermont and New Hampshire. Bi-State supports the health centers with workforce recruitment and retention, public policy advocacy, and other projects to support high quality, affordable primary and preventive health care for all, regardless of income or insurance coverage in rural and underserved communities. I am working with the Vermont office of Bi-State in Montpelier, VT.

The purpose of my project is to identify and produce a document for the best practices for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in conducting a community health needs assessment. The regular completion of community health needs assessments are a requirement for health centers in order to receive federal funding. FQHCs complete community health needs assessments to demonstrate and document the needs of their target populations and to update their service areas, when appropriate. There is not currently a best practice guideline or template to assist the Vermont FQHCs in identifying and accessing the data to determine if their community’s’ needs are being met.  The purpose of this project is to identify and evaluate the current methods of conducting a community health needs assessment and the recommendations identified by previous HRSA site visits and to research and identify best practices for FQHCs in conducting a community future assessments. If this project is successful, I hope that whatever document I can create will also benefit our NH health centers.

While simultaneously working on this project with Bi-State, I am also engaged in writing a Capstone paper on improving access to primary care in rural communities. My research in this capstone paper is around initiatives in the state of New Hampshire that existing currently to improve rural primary care access, as well initiatives that are being suggested in the literature. By identifying the strengths and weaknesses of both New Hampshire’s current initiatives as well as initiatives being proposed in research, I hope to be able to synthesize and recommend suggestions for future New Hampshire initiatives to improve rural access to primary care.

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