Teams at hospitals and health systems understand that social needs and economic circumstances have a significant impact on an individual’s health and well-being. Addressing social drivers of health calls for successful collaboration between health care organizations, community organizations, public health departments and other key stakeholders.

Creative collaborations and innovative solutions to improve the health of individuals and communities abound across the country. The AHA Dick Davidson NOVA Awards honor AHA member hospitals and health systems with strong programs that are improving community health, are collaborative and engage community members to identify issues and co-design solutions or interventions. Applications for the 2024 awards are due Nov. 13. Five organizations will be selected and recognized at the 2024 AHA Leadership Summit in San Diego.

The impact of initiatives led by hospitals and health systems that are previous NOVA Award recipients has been tremendous. I’ll highlight two examples here, but you’ll find many more inspiring stories highlighted in videos and booklets posted on AHA.org.

These two programs, among five recognized in 2022, are creatively meeting behavioral health needs in their communities.

  • The Doorway program was launched at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, N.H., in 2019. The year before, the drug death rate in Cheshire County ranked second among the state’s 10 counties. The Doorway offers a walk-in clinic, information clearinghouse, 24-hour hotline, peer-to-peer recovery assistance for people with substance use disorders, and other support and resources. Less than two years after this program was launched, the number of drug overdose deaths in the county dropped by more than 50%.
     
  • Corewell Health, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., developed a school suicide prevention program, called the School Blue Envelope. It discreetly helps young people get help at school. This program trains elementary, middle and high school staff — from teachers to coaches to bus drivers — on how to handle conversations when a student expresses thoughts of suicide or self-harm behavior. The School Blue Envelope was inspired by the blue envelope protocol that Corewell Health uses with its providers to keep patients safe. The health system has trained 9,000 school personnel in 198 schools across 67 school districts. Those partner schools have reported 1,010 preventive conversations and potential lives saved. Additionally, those thousand students received early intervention, averting 785 unnecessary emergency department visits.

I encourage you to submit an application to share your organization’s collaborative programs that are improving community health. We need to keep spreading the word on this incredible work and the positive impacts of hospitals and health systems in our communities.

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