Advancing community health is truly a team effort. No single sector makes it happen, but we have seen encouraging progress when hospitals and health systems work with federal and local government, businesses, civic groups and others to collaborate on community health initiatives.

Community Health Improvement Week reminds us of and is a great opportunity to recognize the usefulness of bridge-building, alliances and jointly-created health interventions between care providers and local communities. These links are even more important when tackling the social determinants of health. Research tells us that factors such as safe and stable housing, access to healthy food, transportation, personal safety, and social interactions can strongly influence at least 80% of an individual’s overall health. It’s not as simple as access to doctors and medicine.  

The momentum to address the social determinants of health is sparked at many levels, and we all have an important role to play. The AHA has been engaged in advocacy and public policy efforts to support national strategies and provide resources to advance community health everywhere. Here are some of the ways we’re contributing to the team effort:

  • Aligning for Health. AHA is a founding member of Aligning for Health, which is designing and advocating for more flexible, efficient and integrated programs to better improve health outcomes for Americans. 
  • Root Cause Coalition. AHA is also an inaugural partner of The Root Cause Coalition. Since 2015, the Coalition has worked to erase the root causes of health inequities for individuals and communities through cross-sector partnerships in advocacy, education and research. 
  • Sharing Policy Ideas with HHS. The AHA continues to urge the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide more flexibility under Medicare and Medicaid for hospitals and health systems to more holistically address their patients' health, including paying directly for housing, healthy food and other solutions. AHA also has shared recommendations with HHS urging the department to promote further work on standards for capturing social risk data in electronic health records, and examine approaches to adjusting measures in value-based payment programs that go beyond the approaches in current CMS programs. 

In America, the single most important factor in our overall health is our zip code. Community Health Improvement Week challenges us to render that fact obsolete.
So let’s team up, forge strategic partnerships and community collaborations all levels, and continue to work to advance health in America. 

Ashley Thompson is AHA’s senior vice president of public policy analysis and development. 
 

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