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Media Contact: Tom Peterson  tom@thunderheadworks.com  501-837-9050

Health system leaders discuss strategies to improve health in low-income communities 

Stakeholder Health Report provides new recommendations to reduce illness, lower health care costs

Washington, D.C. – April 5, 2013 – This week, nearly 40 U.S.-based health systems met in Washington, D.C. to discuss potential ways to address persistent health problems in communities challenged by poverty, poor education, inadequate housing, racism and other “social determinants of health” that are beyond the ability of any single provider-institution to address.

Members of Stakeholder Health* –  an organization of health systems with a mission to improve health in low-income and other vulnerable communities – were co-hosted by the White House Office and Health and Human Services Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Attendees focused on a new Stakeholder Health report that provides recommendations on how non-profit and faith-based health systems can work with public health, businesses, community groups, and other providers to reduce chronic disease and improve people’s quality of life.

The first-of-a-kind report comes at a critical juncture as U.S. Governors decide whether to accept the expansion of Medicaid dollars as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Attendees addressed opportunities through the health care law to establish more effective population health practices within community environments which produce complex health challenges and needs that result in frequent costly treatment and high hospital readmission rates.

Key practices that align with the ACA include:

  • Virtually all the key health systems in Stakeholder Health provide for populations in communities with significant health disparities in their geographic regions (e.g., Detroit, Memphis, Chicago).  They also promote equity and justice as a key element of their core mission, and are building partnerships with diverse stakeholders to address determinants of health that contribute to disparities in both urban and rural communities.
  • Key learning sites and partners in Stakeholder Health will offer seminars focusing on areas in which they hold special expertise or are far advanced.  For example, Henry Ford Health System in Detroit will offer their Equity Training for all partners, Advocate in Chicago will share lessons learned about building and nurturing robust partnerships with public health, Loma Linda will share their tools and skills in geocoding and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis will share about their work with faith-based networks.

According to Stakeholder Health partner Maureen Kersmarki of Adventist Health System in Orlando, Florida, the report affirms the necessity to see the social complexity of patients as an asset, not just a problem; the community as relevant partners, not just needs; and the money needed to address the issues is money already being spent—on less effective charity care.

*Stakeholder Health was previously called Health Systems Learning Group (HSLG).

Acacia Bamberg Salatti,  Acting  Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships  at the Department of Health and Human Services, said, “In places like Memphis—where Methodist Healthcare has partnered with 500 congregations—the Stakeholder Health partners have proven community scale innovations that lessen health disparities make economic sense, as well. The Stakeholder Health report provides evidence-based initiatives that transform unmanaged charity care into strategic, sustainable community health improvement.”

The Stakeholder Health members have committed to continue exploring approaches to dissolve the walls between healthcare and health, between hospital and community, and to find true cost savings in the process.

Funding for the report was provided in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.