Hospital and health system teams today not only are caring for one patient at a time but also improving the health of their communities. Take, for example, a hospital that provides care and treatment for an individual in the emergency department with high blood sugar who is diagnosed with diabetes and may have another underlying health condition. The same hospital has identified diabetes as a community health issue and, through local outreach, created a diabetes awareness and prevention program for community members, including schoolchildren.

One way that hospitals and health systems are working to effectively address societal factors that influence the health of individuals and communities is by building collaborative teams and bringing together clinical providers with community partners, such as social service and home care agencies. Working together, all these partners can better meet patients’ physical, social and behavioral health needs.

Navigating partnerships between hospitals and health systems and community-based organizations can be challenging, as each sector may have different business and service models, client populations and financial structures.

The AHA has recently updated “Bridging the Sectors: A Compendium of Resources,” which links to a host of tools, assessments, case examples and evidence-based studies. You’ll find practical information, strategies and tools on everything from aligning goals between organizations and calculating return on investment to using publicly available data sources and ensuring equitable health outcomes.

Visit AHA.org for more strategies and information, including a four-part webinar series, on facilitating cross-sector partnerships to improve community health and support individuals with complex health and social needs.

At CommonSpirit, the health system I lead, we seek to address our patients’ health and social needs together through a variety of programs and platforms. For example, our Connected Community Network model helps establish a network of community service organizations with the ability to make referrals using a shared technology platform among hospitals, clinics, and social service and government agencies. And our partnership with Pathways Community HUB Institute bridges clinical and social care. This program brings together providers, payers and community health workers to support underserved populations and tie payments to outcomes.

Understanding the bigger picture and collaborating with community partners are key to many health challenges in our communities. And it’s work that supports several of AHA’s strategic priorities: provide better care and value, create greater community empowerment and eliminate health disparities.

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