How 6 hospitals and health systems approach community investment

Amid various societal, environmental and economic factors, improving the health of individuals and communities should be a collaborative effort co-designed with community stakeholders.

That was one of the findings of a report released Nov. 8 by the American Hospital Association that also highlights the community investment work being done by organizations that participated in Accelerating Investments for Healthy Communities, led by the Center for Community Investment. Support for the report was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Accelerating Investments for Healthy Communities, which ran from 2018 to 2021, aims to help hospitals and health systems deepen their investments in affordable housing and advance policies and practices that promote equitable housing solutions, according to the Center for Community Investment website. It involved team and peer-to-peer training and coaching, as well as funding opportunities. The participants and their target regions are:

  • Bon Secours Mercy Health System (Baltimore and Cincinnati)
  • Boston Medical Center (Boston)
  • Dignity Health (San Bernardino, CA)
  • Kaiser Permanente (Prince George and Montgomery counties in Maryland)
  • Children’s National Hospital (Columbus, Ohio)
  • UPMC (Pittsburgh)

In the report, leaders from participating hospitals and health systems discussed their own organization’s progress in improving community health through community investments, defined, in part, as “investments to improve social conditions, economic and environmental benefits in disadvantaged communities while producing some economic return for investors.”

Four more takeaways, according to hospital and health system leaders:

1. Four job roles or skills that have contributed to community investment include having at least one employee who: can communicate housing investment alignment with broader organizational strategy and vision and provide content expertise on technical topics such as housing.

2. Hospital and health system leaders said their organizations focus more on the “how” than the “why” in presenting the business case to key decision makers regarding community investment. “Although we’ve moved on to the ‘how’, case building is still ongoing for some systems, at least in terms of process,” the report said.

3. It is crucial that housing investment projects are integrated into the overall strategy of the organization to ensure long-term sustainability.

4. Hospital and health system leaders have concluded that “there is no single solution” to reversing the causes and effects of inequity in communities. They said this work requires partnerships and that it is important to match the scope of the intervention to the depth of the problem.

Read the full report here. To watch a new series of videos featuring health system leaders and subject matter experts discussing community investment, click here.

Jill E. Washington