Investing in the health of communities

February 10th, 2020 / By L. Gordon Moore, MD

A 15 percent increase in value is a compelling reason for business and industry to consider investing in the health of communities. Another? How to reverse the trend of new hires being less healthy than retirees.

To improve healthcare costs by improving the way we deliver care has led to an increased appreciation of non-medical factors that drive outcomes.  For example: New York State’s Value-Based Payment program requires delivery system contractors to implement at least one intervention aimed at improving social determinants of health (SDOH) and contract with at least one community based organization (CBO).

Dr. Nico Pronk, President of Health Partners Institute and Chief Science Officer for Health Partners suggests that the insertion of healthcare delivery into public health creates the risk of medicalization: driving up costs without achieving the intended results. Improvements in public health account for 90 percent of improvements in population health, while healthcare delivery accounts for about 10 percent. Careful attention to the needs of a community and processes to engage local stakeholders improve the chances of good outcomes when health systems engage with CBOs and communities.

Dr. Pronk describes the Power Up 4 Kids initiative’s two  years of dialogue, meetings and stakeholder engagement that helped create a system of initiatives that has changed the way kids eat in the St. Croix River valley region in Minnesota. With better access to fresh fruits and vegetables and engagement in physical activities, the program is demonstrating reductions in body mass index (BMI). As high BMI is a precursor to diabetes, the program may provide a pathway to reversing increasing rates of diabetes.

Business and industry leader investment in programs like this appreciate several pathways to better business returns:

  • A 12-year-old with better BMI and activity today is next decade’s healthy employee.
  • Companies bringing their expertise to bear on community health and wellness might expand markets, as Kohler’s focus on sanitation did in India.

HealthyPeople.gov is a resource for those interested in a researched-based approach to improving population health outcomes. The HealthyPeople2030 initiative supports not just how we can identify and manage disease, but how we might move upstream to reduce the rates at which we develop disease. Come listen to Dr. Pronk describe the benefits to business, industry, and society of investments in prevention on 3M’s Inside Angle Podcast.

L. Gordon Moore, MD, is Senior Medical Director, Clinical Strategy and Value-based Care for 3M Health Information Systems.