Hospitals can invest in their communities by buying locally

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Hospitals are often a significant economic driver in their communities, and a toolkit released Thursday offers ways for health facilities to purchase locally and invest in the people they serve.

The toolkit is the second in a series from the Democracy Collaborative and offers strategies for local purchasing and case studies highlighting success stories. Locally sourced purchases can ensure that hospitals are investing in the communities that need it most, according to a post announcing the toolkit’s release.

“Nationally, health systems spend more than $340 billion every year on goods and services but many of those dollars do not reach populations facing the greatest health disparities. Less than 2% of health system purchasing flows to businesses owned by minorities or women,” according to the announcement. “By embracing procurement and sourcing practices that prioritize local residents, health systems can improve the health of the communities they serve in the course of doing business.”

Hospitals that want to embrace locally sourced goods should focus on two areas, according to the toolkit: “connection strategies” and “capacity strategies.” Healthcare leaders should get to know and work with local businesses and leverage existing relationships with large vendors to encourage them to invest locally, too. University Hospitals in Cleveland, for instance, courts vendors to potentially create local jobs with the promise of long-term contracts, according to the kit. These discussions benefit both, as it is in a vendor’s best interest to secure a long-term partnership with a hospital.

Buying local will also require hospitals to invest in and evaluate their supply chain, according to the toolkit. Look for ways to partner with and invest in inclusive businesses and join cooperatives that may incubate new, local business, too. Hospitals have space, access to key information, and expertise that can be valuable to the growth of local business, according to the toolkit.

The kit is the second in a series of three that focus on ways hospitals can improve community health. The first, offering strategies for creating jobs and expanding the local workforce, is available here.