Community health: 5 ways hospitals step up to improve population health

Hospitals with large market shares, especially those in disadvantaged communities, are most willing to invest in tacking social determinants of health to improve population health, according to a post on the Health Affairs Blog. But hospitals across the spectrum are making efforts to improve community health, the authors noted.

"Some leaders are willing to take the risk of investing in programs that are not reimbursable under fee-for-service because they believe these programs will lead to cost savings in the emerging value-based payment world--and that the programs are the right thing to do," said the authors, who interviewed leaders at 24 hospitals across the country.

Hospital-driven initiatives to improve community health included programs to:

  • Build safe parks and develop abandoned lots
  • Help residents complete their GEDs and find work
  • Establish community gardens and partner with grocery stores to improve access to healthy foods and fresh produce
  • Work with local government to establish smoke-free public areas
  • Provide safe, affordable low-income housing

Hospitals with deep ties to the community and a strong mission of community service also were more likely to tackle community health issues, according to the article. But hospital leaders said limited financial resources were a significant barrier to engaging in community health improvement activities. 

A recent survey of healthcare executives and clinical leaders found that a majority believed that organizations must emphasize mental and behavioral health services over population health management, FierceHealthcare reported.

For its part, the Institute of Medicine recently released a framework for educating health professionals on social determinants of health and ways to partner with community groups to address those issues and improve community health, as FierceHealthcare reported.

To learn more:
- read the blog post