​​​​​​​Geisinger's 'radical' approach to improve population health

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Geisinger Health System will unveil a new "radical" population health initiative this week that aims to transform the health of an entire community.

"When it comes to the social determinants of health, we know there are many more causes impacting the health of a population than access to quality medical care," said Geisinger CEO David Feinberg, M.D., in an announcement. "We want to transform healthcare at its core by focusing on preventive care, behavioral health and economic growth."

The Danville, Pennsylvania-based system’s new program, called Springboard Health, will kick off in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and targets both patients' chronic conditions and the community’s overall socioeconomic health, Geisinger said.

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The organization will partner with several local stakeholders to implement the program, which features broad goals. The program's website says it will test several approaches to tackle large-scale socioeconomic issues like hunger and housing insecurity. Potential projects that make it through testing will also be cost-effective, sustainable and designed so that they can be replicated in other regions, according to the website.

"We are going to introduce innovative programs and foster robust community collaborations and back it all up with data to make sure Scranton is the healthiest place to be in the country," Feinberg said in the announcement. "Once we successfully implement Springboard Healthy Scranton, we'll take the program on the road to communities with similar socioeconomic health challenges."

The program’s first project (PDF), titled Fresh Food Pharmacy, aims to provide more healthy eating options to people in the Scranton area. Chronic conditions like diabetes are a significant driver of healthcare costs, research has shown, so the program will identify patients at risk for the disease and enroll them in the project.

The project will ensure that participants have access to at least 10 healthy meals per week and will connect them with local farmers and farmers’ markets to provide them with fresh options they may have had no access to otherwise. Geisinger is already eyeing other Pennsylvania communities for the project.