Across the country, I see hospitals and health systems doing incredible work to improve societal factors that influence the health of individuals and communities. That’s why I’m excited that the AHA is spotlighting a number of strategies that reinforce the crucial role of hospitals and health systems in serving their communities — it’s all part of a digital campaign that launches today.

One example is a new video series featuring health system leaders discussing why community investment is an important anchor strategy. These health systems are working in partnership with their communities to develop new initiatives or accelerate existing efforts that improve individual and population well-being, advance health equity and create more resilient communities.

In addition to the videos, the AHA has released a new report highlighting the work of six health systems that participated in a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative led by the Center for Community Investment. This initiative was designed to increase place-based investment in affordable housing and other upstream activities that will improve community health. The report discusses aligning this work with organizational strategy and mission; making the business case; sustaining engagement; integrating into the system’s overall strategy; and tracking intermediate and long-term impacts. 

There are many interesting and useful takeaways, such as remembering that one size doesn’t fit all and matching the scope of an intervention to the depth of the problem being addressed.

At Providence, we believe that health care is moving out to the home and community. We’ve had this point of view for years, which is why we continue to make informed investments that reach outside our hospital walls, upstream to the social determinants of health.  

One thing our Providence teams acknowledge is that we don’t have all the answers, and that’s when we turn to our network of community-based organizations. There are plenty of groups in our communities that have been doing amazing work to reduce homelessness and hunger, increase education, and strengthen other foundational life needs. It’s key to know which community organizations are active in your focus areas because they likely will be great partners moving ahead. 

With community investment, figuring out where to begin can be challenging. My advice is to first collaborate with community organizations, working together to identify needs and solutions. Start small and with something that you can measure, and then you’ll find it has a way of growing itself.

Working to increase safe, affordable housing is one way to create healthier, more equitable communities. As our cities and neighborhoods recover from the pandemic, community investment will be a vital strategy for reimagining and rebuilding a more just and fair society.  

Rod Hochman, M.D.
AHA Chair
 

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