There's a big problem with mammograms in Bucks County. Four out of every ten women who should be getting a yearly mammogram aren't. They're forgoing a chance to detect a serious health problem early on, when it's easier to take care of and recover from.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) helped bring this problem to the attention of hospitals there. Now they are working together, through their long-standing participation in the Bucks County Health Improvement Partnership, to do something about it.

One of the lesser known provisions of the Affordable Care Act is the requirement that hospitals assess the health of their communities—and then take steps to address some of the most pressing problems found.

Like hospitals everywhere, those in Bucks County did their community health assessments and published their reports online, as required. But these hospitals then took another, very important step. They got together to compare findings and tackle an important health problem affecting all their communities.

As a result, the hospitals that serve Bucks County (Aria Health, Doylestown Heath, Grand View Health, Lower Bucks Hospital, St. Luke's Hospital Quakertown, and St. Mary Medical Center) are teaming up to boost the percentage of women over 40 who get a yearly mammogram as recommended by the American Cancer Society. Hospitals are getting the word out through business partnerships, educational events, and common messaging in community health campaigns.

And women can receive the mammograms at no cost because of Obamacare's requirement that insurance plans cover them with no copayments or deductibles.

Bucks County hospitals are also joining forces to make sure women with low incomes who are undocumented or uninsured take advantage of special free mammogram days at their local hospitals. Eligible women can also enroll in the free mammogram program provided by St. Mary Medical Center.

Those in public health circles refer to such efforts as "moving the needle," to increase the number of people in a population who engage in healthy behaviors (in this case, getting annual mammograms).

Changing behavior is notoriously difficult work. The hospitals of Bucks County wisely chose to collaborate to move the needle on an important, shared health problem. The measure of their success will be a clear and sustainable increase in the percentage of women getting mammograms as recommended.

Per Obamacare, hospitals must conduct community health assessments every three years. I'm betting that next round of assessments shows mammogram rates up in Bucks County.


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