The healthcare field is increasingly thinking about social determinants of health (SDOH) and how to partner with non-health organizations to improve the health of their shared communities. This is a great opportunity for CDCs, who were working on SDOH before most of us even knew what SDOH were! To help prepare CDCs and other community developers for this opportunity, and thanks to a generous grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Mel King Institute held three trainings this summer called “Forging CDC-Hospital Partnerships.”
Nearly 50 people from 39 organizations participated in the trainings across Massachusetts—on June 6 in Northampton, July 13 in Boston and July 18 in Lawrence. Instructor Enid Eckstein taught participants about hospitals’ obligation to invest in their communities, challenges hospitals face in doing so, potential sources of funding from hospitals, and more terms and strategies around approaching a hospital about community development. Participants in Northampton and Boston learned from Department of Public Health officials about the new Determination of Need guidelines that hospitals must follow, and participants in Lawrence learned about them from Enid. All participants worked through a case study of a local hospital in order to practice analyzing hospital financial data and reports on community programs. Through these case studies, participants realized that there is much room for improvement in how hospitals spend their community benefit dollars and for clarity on which health concerns each hospital is prioritizing. While these issues can be challenging to navigate, they also present a chance for CDCs to demonstrate their value in engaging with community members and leading successful initiatives that address the SDOH in their communities.
At the end of the trainings, all three groups discussed what they can do next to put their new knowledge to use and potentially join forces to build relationships with local hospitals. Participants in Boston and Lawrence wrote themselves letters for the future, explaining their vision and strategies they would hope to implement after attending the trainings. MACDC and the Mel King Institute intend to continue supporting these efforts: MACDC has hired Enid Eckstein to provide some direct follow-up technical assistance to CDCs or groups of CDCs that want to move forward. MACDC will also work with MACDC members who are interested in creating a Community Health Committee to continue these conversations and develop strategies to improve the health of their communities. MACDC will be advocating for strong policies and practices in this arena as part of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Community Benefit, of which MACDC President Joe Kriesberg is a member. And, of course, the Mel King Institute will offer additional workshops and sessions on this and other related community health topics.
All in all, we hope these trainings are just the first step towards building more productive cross-sector collaborations that create healthier communities all over Massachusetts. We look forward to seeing this movement develop and supporting our members along the way.