Our mission calls us to population health and community health, which are very different, though they have some commonalities.
I have written before on this blog about the difference between population health and community health, and the majority of the stories in this space have addressed population health. Today’s guest blogger, St. Luke’s Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Christy Neuhoff, writes about our community health efforts.
- David C. Pate, M.D., J.D.
St. Luke’s Health System is committed to improving the health of people in the communities we serve. Indeed, this is our mission, the reason for our existence.
For more than a century, we have focused on improving the health of people who come to our hospitals and clinics for care. We have come to see our mission more broadly, to include a commitment to partner with others in the communities we serve to improve health by addressing needs that are not clinical but that impact health, such as access to healthy food, availability of safe walking or biking routes and many other determinants of health.
Addressing these needs is the right thing to do for many reasons. Healthy children perform better in school. Healthy adults are happier and more productive at home and at work. Healthier communities tend to have healthier economies. And knowing that we are facing a serious shortage of health care providers in Idaho, when we are able to reduce the number of people who get sick or injured, we are better able to serve a broader population.
In the interest of improving community health, St. Luke’s works with its community boards. The boards are specifically responsible for developing Community Health Needs Assessments, identifying the most significant health needs and developing plans to address them, in each area where we have a hospital facility.
We are now aligning our resources to allow for efficiencies as we address similar needs in different communities. St. Luke’s has a long tradition of extending resources out into our communities, but to make the kind of impact our communities deserve, it has become increasingly apparent that our various community health and community engagement efforts would benefit by improved coordination of resources and effort. In my role, my responsibilities include ensuring that our boards have the necessary processes and support to fulfill their oversight responsibilities.
I also have the privilege of serving on the board of the Essential Hospitals Institute (formerly the National Public Health and Hospitals Institute), the research arm of America’s Essential Hospitals. The organization is working with health systems across the country to identify promising practices, conduct research and share innovative strategies with the goal of improving community health.
Like St. Luke’s, other health systems around the nation are considering the best ways to help improve the health of the communities they serve. For St. Luke’s, through and with its community boards, this means working to build partnerships for health and investing our resources in efforts that are likely to provide the greatest benefit to our communities.
Each community where St. Luke’s is present has unique qualities, whether related to socioeconomic factors, cultural makeup, population density, availability of community services or availability of organizations with which to partner. We know that we do not have all the answers, but working with local partners, learning about the bright spots across the country and tapping into national sources of best practices, we believe we can help make a meaningful impact to improve health.
St. Luke’s has a history of connecting with the communities we serve. In each community where a local hospital joined our system, the proposed relationship with St. Luke’s was put to an advisory vote of the public and received overwhelming support (87 percent, 86 percent and 75 percent in the three most recent such votes).
Strong relationships with local communities have contributed to the success of our organization, and more importantly, will contribute to the overall health of the communities we serve. St. Luke’s is poised and ready to more comprehensively contribute to this cause.
Christy Neuhoff is vice president and chief legal officer for St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho.