Dr. Jay Bhatt, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the American Hospital Association, was a guest at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s "Health Huddle" at the 2019 Aspen Ideas: Health festival, exploring how a community’s social conditions can affect health and quality of life long before hospital or medical care is needed.
Dr. Bhatt spoke recently with BCBS ProgressHealth, sharing more about how hospitals are going beyond their walls to address barriers to better health.
Addressing social determinants of health requires hospitals to develop sustainable community partnerships that are meaningful and supported. Under our present system, just doing our best or working harder isn't enough. We need new ideas and bold approaches to improve people’s lives and health by improving their communities. For example, through the American Hospital Association’s Institute for Diversity and Health Equity and the Hospital Community Cooperative (HCC), we’re making it easier for hospitals and community organizations to develop and lead interventions that reduce healthcare disparities and promote health equity among the populations we serve. It involves local people working together to transform the conditions and outcomes that matter to their community.
Hospitals and health systems are making significant progress as more evidence demonstrates the impact of interventions, improved outcomes for patients and a return on investment.
In our HCC, hospitals and health systems serving as anchor organizations are making advancements in their community that, ultimately, lead to reducing health disparities. For example, CHRISTUS St. Vincent Health System, in Santa Fe, N.M., is providing housing for women who are 55 and older or who are medically fragile and experiencing homelessness after the closure of a shelter. The long-term goal is to replicate and expand the program to address homelessness across the region. Additionally, the hospital has a partnership with the mayor’s office to address social determinants. UChicago Medicine is building a collaborative network of social service organizations, called the Social Service Alignment Learning Collaborative (SSALC), to effectively gather data and coordinate services for vulnerable populations experiencing 10 or more unmet social needs. The HCC online resource hub provides expert advice and tools for hospitals and communities to identify, develop and deploy partnerships that address social factors most important to their communities. More examples of efforts to address barriers to better health and the impact can be found here.
We are learning and providing new, bold pathways and approaches to address these health issues. Given that there is ripening of the environment and increasing recognition of the need to address health, progress will continue. We can already see some impacts in the short term, and others will take longer to come to fruition.