Hospitals, communities team up to tackle health inequity

Improving health equity and care access for underserved populations requires contributions from a variety of stakeholders both in and outside of the healthcare industry, and a new report has compiled several success stories that provide a blueprint for other areas to follow.

The report, titled “Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity” and released by the National Academy of Medicine’s Culture of Health program, highlights the importance of partnerships between health organizations and faith-based organizations, community groups and local residents to tackle major social determinants of health.

“Health inequities are a problem for us all—the burden of disparities in health adversely affects our nation’s children, business efficiency and competitiveness, economic strength, national security, standing in the world and our national character and commitment to justice and fairness of opportunity,” James Weinstein, CEO of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock health system, who serves as chairman of the committee, said in announcement of the report.

Among the programs the report highlights are:

  • Minneapolis Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence: Homicide was the leading cause of death among residents aged 15 to 24 from 2002 to 2011, so a wide range of groups with an interest in public health came together to take on the issue, according to the report. This included increasing social programs and educational opportunities for Minneapolis youth and providing better healthcare to victims of violence. Between 2007 and 2015, the number of youth gunshot victims in the city decreased by 62%, according to the report.
  • Delta Health Center in Mississippi: The nation’s first federally qualified rural health center, based in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, focused on increasing access to primary care services and tackling socioeconomic issues in the community like housing and food insecurity. Delta offers health services at nine sites and has a variety of payment options to work with its highly impoverished population—about 98% are at or below the poverty line, according to the report. It has seen success in several clinical areas; for example, the rate of low-birth weight babies born among its patient population decreased from nearly 21% in 2013 to about 4% in 2015 thanks to targeted programs for maternity patients.
  • Mandela Marketplace in California: The Oakland, California-based nonprofit works to create sustainable food systems that reduce regional food insecurity and economic divestment, according to the report. It has partnered with regional health networks like Alameda Health System and public health officials to achieve better health through healthy local food options. Much of its work has been funded through grants, according to the report.