New Report Identifies Opportunities for Promoting Community Health

WASHINGTON and NEW YORK (Jan. 25, 2021) –Accountable Communities for Health (ACHs) and Community Health Centers (CHCs) are natural partners in efforts to advance community health through multi-sector, collaborative work, according to a new report produced by researchers at the Funders Forum on Accountable Health and Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative. Both groups are based at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH).

 

ACHs are multi-sector community-based partnerships that aim to address community health and social needs, and CHCs provide essential community-based healthcare services for underserved and medically vulnerable populations. Health centers, by design, are also meant to address the social needs of their patients and communities. In a survey of ACHs from across the country, the researchers found that ACHs frequently partner with CHCs, and CHCs often participate in ACH governance. At the same time, the research revealed that the form and scope of ACH-CHC relationships varied widely and strong partnerships do not always exist.

 

“Given the critical role that both groups play in addressing health-related social needs and social determinants of health, our findings reveal an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between ACHs and CHCs,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, professor of health policy and management at George Washington University and principal investigator of this project.

 

Other findings from the survey analysis include:

  • Participating CHCs not only provide core health services, but many also play important leading or supporting roles in ACH functions such as reaching underserved areas and populations, managing chronic diseases and coordinating care, assessing community health needs, serving as a resource or linkage to other human services, and building community engagement and trust.
  • The ACH social and support services most often provided through participating CHCs include mental health services and substance use services.
  • A majority of ACH respondents identified existing limitations in CHC capacity, staffing, or funding as one of the top challenges to active and broader CHC participation in their ACH, followed by a lack of data-sharing technology to support information exchange.

Based on survey findings and follow-up conversations with ACH and CHC representatives, the researchers concluded that CHCs can be critical, necessary and able building blocks for ACHs, and that policy makers should take specific steps to incentivize ACH-CHC relationships. The report details a set of actions federal policy makers could undertake, including supporting relationship building, providing financial incentives, removing practice obstacles, and better defining the shared value of partnerships. Together such efforts could increase the likelihood of ACHs and CHCs working more closely to provide community-level interventions addressing social determinants with a focus on the health-related social needs of individuals, and ultimately achieving a shared goal of improving health outcomes.

 

“Both community health centers and ACHs are deeply involved in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in the very communities that are at greatest risk. The current crisis underscores both the shared commitment to improving health at the community level and the need to strengthen and incentivize ACH-CHC relationships,” said Feygele Jacobs, DrPH, president and CEO of the RCHN Community Health Foundation, whose ongoing gift supports the Geiger Gibson Program.

The analysis, “Advancing and Promoting Community Health: Opportunities for Accountable Communities for Health and Community Health Centers,” was published Jan. 25 by the Funders Forum on Accountable Health and the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative.

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The Funders Forum on Accountable Health, a project of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the George Washington University, is a shared venue for funders to explore potential collaborations and consider how to assess the impact of investments over time.

The Geiger Gibson Program in Community Health Policy, established in 2003 and named after human rights and health center pioneers Drs. H. Jack Geiger and Count Gibson, is part of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University.

The RCHN Community Health Foundation is the only foundation in the U.S. dedicated solely to community health centers. The Foundation’s gift to the Geiger Gibson program supports health center research and scholarship.

The Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University is the only school of public health in the nation’s capital.