A local health system is working with other hospitals nationwide to find cures for health problems in their communities.
Summa Health System is among about 40 nonprofit hospital systems participating in a national effort that’s sharing ways to form partnerships and start other initiatives to improve overall community health.
The Health Systems Learning Group’s goal is to find strategies to address health problems across communities, particularly those facing poverty, poor education, inadequate housing, racism and other social factors that impact health.
Representatives from Summa and other health systems in the learning group met in Washington, D.C., recently for a forum co-hosted by the White House and the Health and Human Services’ Neighborhood Partnerships.
“This can’t be only a ‘Summa’ deal,” said Thomas J. Strauss, Summa’s president and chief executive. “If this is really going to impact our community, it has to be about the whole community.”
As part of maintaining their nonprofit tax status, hospitals are required to complete community health needs assessments that identify and address health issues in the populations they serve.
Summa is working with Akron General Health System and Akron Children’s Hospital to complete an updated community health needs assessment this year, said Roxia Boykin, vice president of community benefit and diversity for the Summa Foundation.
Using the results of the assessment, she said, Summa can explore ways to “build population health and community health infrastructure to really meet identified needs in communities.”
Summa already has launched efforts to improve the health in areas of need, Boykin said, particularly its Center for Health Equity at the Village at New Seasons, a development championed by the House of the Lord that combines senior housing with commercial space.
The primary care practice, which opened last year, also offers a community room with a demonstration kitchen for healthy cooking classes, access to social workers and behavioral health experts and space for research, education and other community services.
The idea is to provide coordinated services that address the high levels of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease risk factors among the primarily African-American residents in the neighborhood surrounding the center.
According to a report recently released by the national learning group, the goals ahead include finding ways to better use money already being spent on charity care. Another goal, according to the report, is to “better understand our diverse communities through the lens of race/ethnicity, linguistics/literacy and socioeconomics to ensure we are equipped to meet their needs in culturally appropriate ways.”
Summa has provided $10,000 in funding to support the national effort.
During the meeting last month in Washington, the group talked about how hospitals, social service agencies, faith-based organizations and even the banking industry can work together to develop programs that improve access to health care for underserved populations while improving their overall health and lowering the cost of care, Strauss said.
“We actually had a full day of talking about the moral issues of health care — how we address the underserved in our communities,” Strauss said. “It was a breath of fresh air. We feel good about where we’re going.”
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.