Community Investment: Moving from Transactions to Transformation

Hospitals and health systems are working to address the upstream, root causes of health inequities by making investments to improve the health and well-being of communities for the long-term. This blog explores real-world examples from leaders in the field and insights on how to approach this work.

Leaders in health and social care working to address the root causes of health inequities and amplify their roles as anchor institutions recently convened at the Root Cause Coalition National Summit on the Social Determinants of Health and the Healthcare Anchor Network (HAN) Annual Convening. These meetings highlighted a strategy increasingly used by hospitals and health systems - long-term investments that move beyond grant-funded programs and projects to explore where and how such programs can make the greatest community impact. As examples, the HAN Convening provided an opportunity to visit ProMedica’s headquarters in Toledo, OH, situated in a formerly defunct steam plant, and their investment in Market on Green which houses a grocery store, cooking demo and community space, nursing job training center, and financial counseling office.

Access to affordable, clean, safe, and energy-efficient housing is a frequent aim of these long-term investments and is also a need that has risen to the top of many community health assessments – from the urban Bronx in New York City to rural Boise, Idaho. In light of the profound impact of stable housing health and well-being, hospitals are working with public and private funders, local municipalities, community based organizations, wrap-around providers, and other partners to find creative ways to make these impact investments. Here are three key takeaways from the Root Cause and HAN convenings:

  1. Hospitals and health systems don’t need to do this work alone. Partnerships are crucial to advancing this work. Funding can be accessed via Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), local banks reinvesting funds through the Community Reinvestment Act, and foundation and philanthropic dollars available for this work.
  2. Building new housing isn’t the only option. Many hospitals and health systems are investing in community land trusts, buying existing housing and making it affordable, donating land or repurposing old hospital buildings, or rehabbing homes to remove environmental toxins such as lead and mold which exacerbate chronic health conditions.
  3. Providing funding isn’t the only way to impact these issues. Hospitals and health systems can use their advocacy voice, and anchor mission, convener capabilities, existing assets, and leverage of their reputation in the community to advance this work.

The AHA has a website dedicated to community investment resources where you can learn more about this topic from leaders in a variety of markets. We also hosted a webinar with Build Healthy Places Network to discuss their Playbook for New Rural Healthcare Partnership Models of Investment and hear a case-example from Saint Alphonsus Health System’s partnership with LEAP Housing. Access the recording here. We will also be hosting a pre-conference workshop on this topic at both the Rural Health Care Leadership Conference and Accelerating Health Equity Conference. We hope you will join us there to learn more about how you can use this strategy to improve health outcomes in the communities you serve.