Iyah Romm believes strongly that cities should be healthy places to live for everyone, including those who live in the most vulnerable neighborhoods.
Thus, New York City-based Cityblock was born in 2017 as a groundbreaking care model designed to meet the complex health and social needs of low-income individuals.
Unlike a traditional doctor’s office, the model prioritizes caring for its members when and where it’s convenient for them in the community, outside of hospitals and doctors’ offices whenever reasonable, and in their homes, reviving home-visiting in impoverished neighborhoods.
The model came together after a nine-month design process in partnership with Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, an organization that designs and builds urban innovations, and a group of Medicaid-eligible New Yorkers.
In July, it opened the doors of its first “Neighborhood Hub” in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, partnering with EmblemHealth to care for a group of residents and plans to scale block-by-block, one relationship at a time.
Fierce insights from Iyah Romm, CEO and Founder of Cityblock Health
The big idea: Better care for underserved communities
Headquarters: Brooklyn, New York
CEO: Iyah Romm, CEO and co-founder
Launch Date: October 2017
Funders/Funding Raise: $20.8 million
Revenue: Did not disclose
FierceHealthcare: What is your best piece of advice for launching a healthcare company that challenges the status quo?
Iyah Romm: Just keep swimming ... Along the way, there will be many signals that you’re chasing the wrong problems or taking the wrong approach—the hardest challenge is figuring out which signals to listen to and adapt accordingly. It takes a constant situational awareness and willingness to keep going, to not get bogged down. At Cityblock, we realized early on how deeply entrenched the challenges we faced were—especially those in access-limited neighborhoods that face significant barriers to care. We recognized that we needed to rebuild trust as a foundational concept. A new tech stack is not a solution in and of itself, but it has enabled us to reorient care around people, meet members where they are, address the totality of people’s lived realities and to keep our promises to our members.
FH: What is the failure you’ve learned the best lesson from?
IR: Fifteen years ago, I was certain I would become a doctor. I was fascinated by the intersection of science and humanity and imagined a career of impact through medicine. Fast-forward several years and I found myself choosing to leave medical school after my second year, and it was the type of narrative-breaking decision that rearranges your life. And while it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made—leading me to a career in health delivery, policy, technology and ultimately to founding Cityblock—I learned two important lessons that I’ll carry with me: the most rewarding careers are not a straight line, and sometimes you can only connect the dots in reverse.
FH: What is the one change you predict in healthcare that people wouldn’t expect?
IR: I predict that “SDoH” won’t just be a buzzword or trend. As health delivery increasingly moves towards integrated models of medical, behavioral and social care—with strong technology roots—I think we’ll see more people address social determinants as a core tenet of effective value-based care.