By Rich Bell on January 14, 2015
Izmira Palomares of Little River Medical Center describes the role of a community health worker.
The public institutions we’ve long relied on are outmoded and ill equipped to solve today’s financial, demographic and structural challenges. At least, that’s how Americans of all ages have begun to feel. Some harken back to times when families and neighbors supported each other in times of need, and when service providers, policy makers and employers were more connected and responsive to local communities.
Yet, with nods to social progress and new tools to address modern challenges, many of us sense a transformation underway. Behind it all is a growing recognition that health, prosperity and social justice are not only connected, but are also built in communities.
A growing number of providers and payers recognize that only 20% of health outcomes are attributed to clinical care, and that prevention produces better and more equitable health outcomes at lower human and financial cost. They are shifting their focus from individual medicine and disease management to community prevention and population health.
I was recently involved in a powerful convening, hosted by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (BCBSNCF), to build the capacity of health clinics and other partners serving low-income people to improve health equity by supporting healthier community environments. Using the Prevention Institute’s Community Centered Health Home (CCHH) model as a focus, the event engaged 12 county-based partnerships in an intensive learning process.
We discussed prevention and healthy community change; clinical leadership and capacity; community assessment and prioritization; meaningful community engagement; and the role of community health workers. Clinics and their partners also assessed their readiness and identified gaps in capacity for becoming a CCHH.
These are some of the questions we will be seeking to answer in the next several years as we innovate to improve the performance of our health system. Hopefully, you’ll help us answer them so that all people can benefit from the quality communities, public institutions and health they deserve.