Intermountain Healthcare to put $12M toward issues like housing, food insecurity

Intermountain Healthcare is making a serious financial investment in treating patients' nonmedical needs, such as housing or food insecurity.

The Utah Alliance for the Determinants of Health will be led by the health system in Ogden and St. George, Utah, and includes city, county and state agencies alongside other community groups. It will focus on nonmedical factors to improve health, such as housing and food insecurity, transportation access and violence in the home, according to an announcement

Intermountain will be investing $12 million in the two cities over the course of three years, according to the announcement. The initial funding will be put toward strengthening existing community programs and improving coordination between the health system and the other alliance participants.

While Intermountain may not have a wealth of expertise in coordinating housing or improving access to food, Mikelle Moore, senior vice president for community health at the system, told FierceHealthcare that it an effect significant change by being the catalyst to unite different groups.

"We are a very effective convener in bringing those groups together and thinking about how we can better understand the people we're looking to serve," Moore said. "[Then we can] coordinate our services more effectively."

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The alliance is in its early stages as the involved groups conduct more in-depth study into what the populations in each city need. About 3,000 people have been enrolled in St. George and about 4,000 have been enrolled in Ogden, Moore said.

Intermountain projects that the investment in better efficiency and coordination will lead to lower-cost care. Moore said that the system is not expecting to see a full return on investment in the initial three years, and it is working internally and with its partners to build ways to measure that ROI for all involved to demonstrate the impact in multiple areas.

Intermountain is one of many health systems making significant investments in addressing the social determinants of health. Kaiser Permanente, for example, announced in May that would invest $200 million in housing initiatives in partnership with Mayors and CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment.

Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson said that the system's size allows it to investment in housing projects that are scalable and could be replicated in cities outside of the Mayors and CEOs group.

Intermountain views its alliance similarly. After its three-year demonstration in St. George and Ogden, the alliance will pursue expanding its programs elsewhere in the state and possibly beyond Utah.

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Communities in the initial program will be selected based on need and the availability of potential community partners. Patients in the participating zip codes will be eligible to use the alliance's services even if they don't seek care from Intermountain, according to the announcement.

"We thought that we could probably, through working with partners in our communities, find solutions that could be sustainable for our state and potentially across the country," Moore said.