Ken Fawcett, M.D., Spectrum Health’s vice president of Healthier Communities in Grand Rapids, Mich., knows what it takes to build healthier communities. Healthier Communities’ outreach to Western Michigan’s underserved residents is why Spectrum Health has received the 2016 Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service. The AHA will present the award to Spectrum Health May 9 at the association’s annual membership meeting in Washington, D.C.

Through the years, Spectrum Health Healthier Communities has improved maternal and infant health, children’s health and prevented and managed chronic diseases through a variety of community-based initiatives. 

Fawcett says the key to successful outreach is “not to be so worried about controlling the work ourselves, but being able to work through community partners and recognize that we can achieve more by avoiding unnecessary duplication and leaning on the expertise that exists in our community.”

Spectrum Health offers a powerful example of community involvement, and one of many outstanding examples for our field. Hospitals and health systems across the country are leading local, collaborative initiatives to improve not just health, but also the quality of people’s lives. These partnerships promote care coordination, as well as wellness and prevention – issues that are commanding heightened attention as we continue to transform care delivery in this country.

As that transformation moves forward, it will be increasingly important for hospital and health system leaders to reach out and work with others to find new ways to meet community needs. The positive return in better community relations – as well as a healthier community – more than outweigh the effort.