Economic development, particularly for rural communities, relies on quality of life attributes such as health care, which can include access not only to hospitals, but also physician offices, pharmacies, ambulatory care, dental care, nursing care, and wellness and fitness centers. These establishments can contribute directly to the local economy through employment and income from items such as retail sales and tax revenue, but a sustainable health care system has many other indirect economic benefits, including attracting and maintaining other business and industry growth, and keeping retirees in the local area.
The Norton County Hospital, like all hospitals urban and rural alike, strives to meet the needs of its patients in the local communities, despite numerous challenges. A regular Community Health Needs Assessment helps hospitals understand the gaps in patients' needs locally; these are needs that hospitals and other health entities can work together to collectively make better.
According to Kansas Rural Health Works, a program at Kansas State University, federal legislation requires all 501(c)(3) hospitals to conduct a periodic community health care needs assessment, as well as devise an implementation strategy to address high priority community health-related needs. Kansas Rural Health Works has developed a program to assist hospitals and health departments fulfill their requirements related to the community health needs assessment. The process is community-driven, with input from health care providers, and helps the community identify, brainstorm and solve problems related to local health care.