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More health systems move into social initiatives

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Herewith a  national look at how some hospitals systems  are working to promote social initiatives to improve population health and cut the astronomical cost of healthcare.Cambridge Management Group has long been working in the field of social determinants of health, most  recently in its recent engagement with Jackson Care Connect, in Oregon.

As Modern Healthcare notes: “A small but growing group of not-for-profit hospitals and health systems is spending more money on nontraditional community benefit programs designed to address social determinants that affect health, including crime, education, housing, hunger, jobs, poverty and violence.

“Many of these projects fall outside the conventional range of community benefit activities, such as free clinics and health screening events. Instead, their focus is on building healthier communities by bettering people’s lives. ”

There are some high hopes, but some public-health experts say that community health improvement initiatives might take as long as a generation to make a significant impact, and get a good return on investment for health systems.

As Modern Healthcare noted: “{S}ome researchers question whether these efforts by health systems will be big enough to dent broad societal problems such as poverty and income inequality, and whether the systems are willing to step into controversial political fights that could involve government spending and regulation. Health systems are still trying to gather the evidence that their programs are having the intended impact.”

“Increasing access to medical care is less important to health outcomes than addressing social factors such as income inequality and support for parents during the first year of a child’s life, Stephen Bezruchka, M.D., a senior lecturer in the health-services department at the University of Washington, told Modern Healthcare. “You have to recognize that nonmedical factors are what produce health. {But} I don’t see any hospitals trying to advocate for social change.”


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