Blood pressure screenings, cholesterol checks, discounted mammograms, juvenile immunizations – these are just a few ways not-for-profit hospitals provide health benefits to the communities they serve.
Historically, hospitals focused their community benefit activities on providing charity care and other forms of uncompensated care to patients in the community. However, as hospitals began to shift toward a value-based model of care, community benefit requirements for nonprofit hospitals expanded. Today, health systems are addressing preventive care and population health improvement through a variety of activities and are designing ways to care for their communities outside of their walls. Many health systems are also inspired to collaborate with traditional and nontraditional community partners.
Community benefit includes programs or activities that provide treatment or promote health and healing as a response to identified community needs and meet at least one of the following objectives:
•Improve access to healthcare services.
•Enhance the health of the community.
•Advance medical or health knowledge.
•Relieve or reduce the burden on government to provide health services.
As a not-for-profit healthcare system, Novant Health reaches across regions to improve the health of the communities we serve. Through our community benefit efforts in 2016, thousands of women in the North Carolina Triangle got screened for heart disease. Struggling coastal families received free baby care supplies at the Brunswick Community Baby Shower. Children at low-income schools got needed immunizations, and families who struggle to pay for medical treatments received help paying for their healthcare.
As a result, in 2016, Novant Health provided more than $725.5 million in community benefit, up from $706.3 million in 2015. Novant Health is also working to address health disparities in the communities it serves by partnering with like-minded organizations. In Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Novant Health is working closely with Carolinas HealthCare System and the Mecklenburg County Health Department to eliminate health disparities. The goal of the collaboration is to effectively pool efforts and resources, build upon existing work, and come together for the greater good of the community. Together the organizations are focused on increasing access to care; establishing resources for mental health and disease prevention; offering immunizations for all children; decreasing ER utilization; and helping people access healthcare at the right place, time and price. In the future, this collaboration may also include other nonprofit organizations, senior centers, the faith community, and parks and recreation departments, which will help enhance the health and well-being of all area residents.
Novant Health is not the only healthcare organization giving back. In San Francisco, Saint Francis Memorial Hospital is addressing poverty, violence, hunger, poor nutrition and lack of housing. Through its Tenderloin Health Improvement Partnership, Saint Francis Memorial Hospital is decreasing tooth decay in school-age children; reducing death rates associated with cardiovascular disease, lower respiratory infections, poisoning and drugs; and reducing gang-related violence during school hours.
Ascension, headquartered in St. Louis, provides free care to those in need in the 24 states that it serves, as well as implements practical solutions that minimize their organization’s impact on the natural environment. Known as their Environmental Stewardship Program, hospitals within the Ascension network host weekly farmer’s markets, fill their cafeterias with local meat and produce, use china dishes for patients and eliminated Styrofoam in their retail food service.
The health system also employs green construction, operations and maintenance of its healthcare facilities, vehicles, landscaping and site water management, and educates the community about conservation efforts with signs throughout its hospitals. In 2017, Ascension’s focus is on reducing the use of antimicrobials in architectural and furnishing products, improving waste management and mitigating climate change impacts. Many of these programs qualify as community benefit. Those that do not are still a great benefit to the communities they serve and have an impact on human health. As a result, these community initiatives allow these healthcare systems the opportunity to build a community of wellness, which improves overall population health.