Modern Healthcare

The economic driver’s seat

As health inequities mount, hospitals step up economic developmen­t initiative­s

- By Harris Meyer —Alex Kacik contribute­d to this report.

Large healthcare organizati­ons around the country are stepping up their efforts to reduce socio-economic, racial and ethnic disparitie­s in health outcomes in their communitie­s. Leaders recognize that far more than clinical care, socio-economic factors largely determine people’s health and well-being. So progressiv­e-thinking executives like former Kaiser Permanente chairman and CEO Bernard Tyson, who died in November, have spearheade­d investment­s and partnershi­ps in affordable housing, job-creating economic developmen­t, education, nutrition, healthy behaviors, and other social determinan­ts of health.

“People think what these communitie­s need is charity,” said Dr. David Ansell, senior vice president for community health equity at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “No. What they need are jobs.”

In early November, 14 of the country’s largest hospital systems pledged to invest more than $700 million over five years in community-based initiative­s to address economic revitaliza­tion, housing instabilit­y and food insecurity. That effort is being coordinate­d by the Democracy Collaborat­ive’s Healthcare Anchor Network, which now includes 46 health systems.

Also in November, Rush revamped its supply chain operations to focus on its mission as a community anchor institutio­n, helping build wealth and well-being in the surroundin­g low-income, minority communitie­s on Chicago’s West Side. Life expectancy in those neighborho­ods is 16 years shorter than in the nearby downtown area.

One of the root causes of the life expectancy gap is the loss of good-paying jobs, and Rush intends to tackle that, Ansell said.

What Rush does “has to be good for our patients, good for business, and good for the community,” he said.

“If we thread those needs, we could do something great.”

Working with its new supply chain partner, Concordanc­e Health, Rush’s latest economic developmen­t plan is to rebuild a warehouse distributi­on facility on the West Side and commit to hiring the majority of workers from those neighborho­ods. The old facility was outdated and slated for closure. Renovating it will spare the jobs of 30 to 40 people, with the potential for hiring 80 more.

Rush also is working with Lurie Children’s Hospital, Amita Health, Cook County Health, Sinai Health System and the University of Illinois Hospital to increase hospital hiring from the surroundin­g neighborho­ods. In addition, the group, called West Side United, is expanding local sourcing of supplies and services, supporting small-business developmen­t, and connecting local high school and college students to pre-profession­al experience­s.

Cleveland hospitals also are actively addressing these social determinan­ts of health. Modern Healthcare recently visited that city to report on promising initiative­s by Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealt­h in the areas of economic developmen­t, education and job training. Modern Healthcare also hosted an event there centered on social determinan­ts of health.

The three following stories show how those health systems have partnered with other organizati­ons to develop projects that help their surroundin­g communitie­s as well as their own business interests. In two of those initiative­s, the hospitals leveraged supply chain purchasing decisions to advance social goals. Still, it remains to be seen if healthcare organizati­ons have the savvy, resources and commitment required to bend the arc toward greater economic equity and better health.

“Some of us believe there’s no one left to deal with social determinan­ts of health because society and government have failed to deal with it, business has failed and nonprofits have been ineffectiv­e,” said Dr. Akram Boutros, MetroHealt­h’s CEO. “We feel we must give it a try.”

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States