Hospitals have long been considered anchor institutions in communities. We employ many of our neighbors and support local economies, but our overall mission is to care for thepeople of our communities. You may think of us only when you’re sick, but the missions of hospitals extend beyond our four walls. We champion and support the community’s health by providing access to healthy food, exercise programs, empowering people through prevention and screenings, and serve as a resource for behavioral health issues. We do it because hospitals understand that keeping our citizens healthy helps create a healthy community — a Westchester that continues to be a great place to work, play and live. But we can’t do it alone.
CREATING PARTNERSHIPS TO PROPEL
HEALTHY COMMUNITIES FORWARD
There’s much talk about social determinants of health and the role they play in overall health outcomes. According to research, 80 percent of the factors that contribute to an individual’s longevity and quality of life may be determined by socioeconomic, environmental or behavioral factors such as inadequate housing, lack of access to healthy, affordable foods, substance addiction, unemployment and limited parks and recreational spaces. Access and quality of health care only impacts 20 percent of your overall health. So, we have to think in a holistic way about these issues and how to create public-private partnerships to address them.
HEALTHY COMMUNITIES CREATE
HEALTHY BUSINESS ENVIRONMENTS
In 2016, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation issued a brief titled “Why Healthy Communities Matter to Businesses.” The report supports the link between health and a productive workforce and stated: “…Healthy communities are associated with lower rates of obesity and smoking, and higher levels of education. All these factors contribute to a healthy, more productive workforce that misses few days of work and drives lower health care expenditures.”
A healthy workforce is a win-win for everyone by reducing employer and employee costs, increasing productivity and lowering out-of-pocket health care costs.
HEALTHY COMMUNITY INITIATIVE
White Plains Hospital is thinking differently. In the last year, we embarked on a quest to engage diverse partners to build a culture of health and created a Healthy Community Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to identify and advance clinical and nonclinical approaches for improving health, preventing disease and reducing health disparities within the community.
This Healthy Community Initiative is bringing together key stakeholders from White Plains, including leaders from the school district, housing authority, Ministers Fellowship Council, White Plains Hospital and others to form a citywide collaborative focused on positively impacting health outcomes in our community. These groups have their own individual missions and goals, but all are coming together to support the idea to build a strong, vibrant community in which to live, learn, work and play. By approaching issues from the bottom up versus top down, we are discovering the unique needs of our community. By prioritizing our efforts and combining resources we can be more effective in moving programs forward and making an impact.
Each partner plays a role in identifying needs and creating effective and collaborative programs to make an impact. One of the earliest programs developed was a 12-Weeks to Wellness program with a population identified by the Thomas H. Slater Center. The Slater Center created an exercise program to engage a group in weight loss. We partnered to add clinicians to provide health screenings, nutrition education and interactive activities to engage the group in wellness. We’ve also implemented a fresh food pantry pickup for patients with chronic diseases who may not be able to access fresh produce on a regular basis, in partnership with Feeding Westchester.
A BLUEPRINT FOR EXCEPTIONAL CARE
When White Plains Hospital saw its first patient 125 years ago, our founder, Dr. Ernst Schmid, began the tradition of supporting public health, a responsibility to the community he felt that extended beyond the hospital’s four walls. He advocated for sanitary sewers in White Plains to stop the spread of disease. A visionary, Dr. Schmid created a blueprint for exceptional care that we
still follow today.
The bottom line is this: healthy communities are good for the bottom line. When we can partner together, sharing our resources and expertise to address the social determinants of health, we will have created a blueprint for a healthy community that others will follow in the future to promote the well-being of all of our citizens.
Dawn French is senior vice president for marketing, communication and community relations at White Plains Hospital. She can be reached at 914-681-0600 or email@example.com.