Hospitals and health systems have a long history of leading initiatives that improve individual and community health. By partnering with community-based organizations, hospital teams are working to address priority health needs in communities and encourage healthy behaviors for patients and community members.

At the AHA Accelerating Health Equity Conference in May, I had the honor of presenting the 2024 Dick Davidson NOVA Award to five organizations that are addressing critical health challenges and doing extraordinary work to create and sustain healthy environments in their communities.

Here’s a brief look at these award-winning programs:

  • Essentia Health has established Resourceful, an online directory of approximately 5,000 community-based organizations that can assist patients with life challenges that affect their health, such as food insecurity, housing insecurity and transportation barriers. The health system serves a heavily rural area with more than 1 million people in parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. Community health workers use Resourceful to connect people with verified programs providing free and reduced-cost services.
  • John Muir Health leads the Beyond Violence program, providing essential support for survivors of assaults, stabbings or shootings and guiding them toward a path of healing and safety. In partnership with several nonprofit community organizations, this program is bridging the gap in violence prevention and intervention services. Seven intervention specialists and four mental health therapists are on the team. Since its inception in 2010, nearly all of the program’s 700 clients have avoided further injury.
  • Munson Healthcare launched the Street Medicine Program, which provides care to unhoused people in Traverse City, Mich. Street Medicine health care professionals see nearly 300 individuals a year, administering immunizations, treating opioid addiction, distributing hygiene products and making connections to housing resources. One hallmark of the program is the participation of medical residents from the fields of primary care, psychiatry and pharmacy.
  • Palomar Health in San Diego County opened its Child Advocacy Center and Forensic Health Services in 1984 to help people of all ages who have endured physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking. In 2021, it expanded regional care services with a newly designated Trauma Recovery Center and became the statewide hospital-based training center in California for forensic medical exams. These programs provide a full continuum of services for people affected by violence.
  • University Hospitals in Cleveland has established Food for Life Markets to make healthy food available to patients living in areas considered food deserts and help patients manage obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Clinicians also refer patients to the Food for Life Markets if they screen positive responding to one or two “hunger vital sign” statements. Patients referred to the markets saw a decrease in their blood pressure, and diabetic patients have improved their A1C scores. 

To read more and view a video about the impact these hospitals and health systems are making in their communities, visit The AHA Accelerating Health Equity Conference post-event playbook also highlights hospital-community partnerships that are improving health outcomes and eliminating disparities.

Note that applications for the 2025 AHA Dick Davidson NOVA Award will open Aug. 19, and I encourage you to consider completing an application and sharing your organization’s collaborative work to improve community health. More information is available on

I’m proud of the work we are doing with community partnerships at Dartmouth Health, and I applaud all hospitals and health systems across the country serving as leaders and valued partners in the work to advance the health of all individuals and communities. 

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