Health isn’t created by doctors and nurses, but by friendships and families … by good air, food, houses, roads and jobs … by strong communities and good schools. Because improving health means going beyond hospitals and physicians’ offices, the AHA encourages the field to take advantage of our ongoing series of guides on strategic considerations and approaches hospitals can use to improve the environment where people live, work and play.

Our most recent guide is a one-pager aimed at helping hospital and health system board members and leaders in vulnerable communities implement a multi-step strategy to address the underlying social conditions that often prevent people from getting access to the care they need and improving their health. It is one of nine innovative strategies identified last year by the AHA’s Task Force on Ensuring Access in Vulnerable Communities for communities to consider based on their unique needs, support structures and preferences. The guide is the third in a series that will address each of the nine strategies.

Helping patients overcome socio-economic barriers to better health is critical to our ability to build a future whether hospitals and health systems are associated as much with health and wellness as they are with sickness. Hospitals that are addressing those barriers know what it takes to improve not just health, but the quality of people’s lives.