When we speak about hospitals and community benefit, it’s often a story focused on numbers. But it’s always about the people we serve. 

A recent report released by the AHA shows tax-exempt hospitals provided more than $105 billion in total benefits to their communities in 2018, the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available. This number, while incredibly impressive, is just the beginning of the story. Every day of the year, hospitals and health systems are improving our communities’ health and well-being — including investing outside the walls of our facilities, guided by vibrant partnerships. 

I’m inspired by the initiatives led by so many hospitals and health systems, including the 2021 AHA Dick Davidson NOVA Award recipients. They are working with local organizations and making huge impacts for individuals and families in their communities. Three stories I’d like to highlight:   

  • Texas Health Resources led Blue Zones Project Fort Worth, working with community leaders and volunteers to create a more walkable, bike-able community; increase access to healthy foods; and reduce tobacco use. Fort Worth’s well-being score jumped significantly, and when COVID-19 hit, the project pivoted from supporting community partners to responding to food insecurity.
     
  • Luminis Health in Annapolis, Md., collaborated with community partners to create a COVID-19 Prevention Program. Activities include educating residents about COVID-19; providing resources related to food scarcity and financial insecurity; and preventing worsening disparities by improving knowledge about COVID-19 infection and prevention. To date, the team has reached nearly 46,000 residents and administered COVID-19 vaccinations to 8,000 residents through mobile vaccine clinics. 
     
  • Providence Health & Services in Portland, Ore. — part of the health system I lead — developed the Better Outcomes Through Bridges program, which uses peer support, outreach and community partnerships to help vulnerable people access the care they need. Using our health system’s Collaborative Community Approach Model, the BOB program cared for COVID-19-positive people experiencing homelessness by renting motel rooms and providing food, clothing, medications and support. 

To keep the inspiration going, I encourage you to check out the current cohort of 20 teams in the AHA’s Hospital Community Collaborative. These organizations and their local partners are working to reduce community-level health disparities caused, exacerbated or illuminated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hospitals and health systems always have been the lifeline of our communities, and that’s more apparent than ever during the pandemic. COVID-19 has put a spotlight on many areas of need, and I applaud all of our teams for their amazing resourcefulness and dedication — inside and outside the hospital walls.

Rod Hochman, M.D.
 

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