For communities fortunate enough to have one or more hospital facilities, the subsequent hospital-community partnerships that frequently follow can profoundly enhance residents’ quality of life. This is one of many reasons the North Texas city of Midlothian is celebrating Methodist Health System’s recent decision to build a new hospital in the growing community of 38,000.
According to a 2016 report released by the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET), critical partnerships anchored by hospitals can help foster a “culture of health.” This culture of health essentially translates into creating a society that gives all individuals an equal opportunity to live the healthiest life they can, whatever their ethnic, geographic, racial, socioeconomic, or physical circumstances may be.
To understand the variety of ways that hospitals and communities can develop and sustain partnerships, HRET, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), conducted 50 interviews with hospital, health system, and community leaders from 25 diverse communities.
These interviews resulted in lessons learned and best practices in identifying community health needs, potential partners, and sustainable partnership structures, as well as recommendations for overcoming obstacles and assessing partnerships.
Hospital-Community Partnerships Making an Impact
There are countless ways that hospitals provide resources in communities — from financial and staffing to in-kind contributions or facilities, and more.
The HRET report highlighted several examples in which hospital-community partnerships played vital roles in developing programs with long-term positive impacts.
Here are a few examples cited in the report:
- Jackson, TN: To address the needs of children’s access to healthcare, West Tennessee Healthcare partnered with the Jackson-Madison County School District and the local health department to create a school nurse program and used its own funds to provide five full-time nurses during the first year. This marked just one way that West Tennessee Healthcare served as a positive facilitator for health-related community programs and partnerships.
- Montrose, CO: Working with the local Montrose County School District, Montrose Memorial Hospital (MMH) provides a career options seminar and career fairs for students. In the career programming, the hospital and school district offer students 16 possible career clusters in health sciences, management and administration, and marketing and business. Students in grades 9 through 12 can work for academic credit while also having a career internship.
- Whittier, CA: In 2011, recognizing the rising rates of childhood obesity, as well as fewer district resources to provide physical and nutrition education, the Los Nietos School District and PIH Health formed Healthy Los Nietos (HLN), a school-based wellness collaborative. The HLN collaborative has implemented interventions, infrastructure and policy changes to sustain school-based wellness in the Los Nietos School District. One change resulted in revamped school nutrition services. The school district now offers diverse, healthy food options, including cafeteria salad bars and breakfast in all classrooms.
This is just a small sampling of the ways hospitals can be a catalyst for new programs, initiatives, and synergistic partnerships within their respective communities.
Fostering a Healthy Future
Closer to home here in North Texas, Methodist Mansfield Medical Center partnered with Midlothian Independent School District, Mansfield Independent School District, and South Grand Prairie High School Athletic Departments in 2018 to offer UIL sports physicals to middle and high school student athletes. The hospital also offered free, optional echocardiogram screenings by appointment at each of the three school locations.
The program offers a tremendous opportunity for area student-athletes to have a quality physical exam and access to comprehensive tests. It is just one of the ways that Methodist Health System maintains positive connections with the communities that surround its medical centers.
Hospitals and health systems are ideally positioned to improve the health of their communities. As valuable corporate residents and economic engines, they also often serve as resourceful partners in cross-sector collaborations that help foster healthy futures.