Fostering health equity through strategic community investment

Outreach and collaboration are key.
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UCLA Health hospital leaders shared strategies to improve community health and well-being by building inclusive, local economies, during a conference they hosted at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center.

More than 300 people representing more than 55 health care systems across the country attended the annual convening of the Healthcare Anchor Network (HAN), a collaborative committed to addressing social inequities that lead to poor health outcomes. HAN's core purpose is to establish practices that benefit long-term community well-being. 

Johnese Spisso
Johnese Spisso,​ president of UCLA Health and CEO of the UCLA Hospital System

Johnese Spisso, president of UCLA Health and CEO of the UCLA Hospital System, noted Los Angeles County’s size, diverse population and significant health disparities provided an instructive environment for the Oct. 3-5 conference.

“I think it gives us an opportunity to be a learning environment for how we can work together with our community to really start making some significant changes,” she said during the CEO/Leadership plenary session. Health care providers, Spisso said, must “provide high-quality equitable care that is both culturally and linguistically appropriate and aligned with not only the patients we are currently serving but also areas where we need to expand service and then to be more visibly and actively present in the community.”

The network includes all University of California academic health systems and many other leading health care providers including New York-Presbyterian, Stanford Health Care and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Through the UCLA Health Anchor Institution Mission, UCLA Health aims to mitigate racial and socioeconomic inequities by investing in under-resourced communities to improve social factors that affect health, said Medell Briggs-Malonson, MD, MPH, chief of UCLA Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

UCLA Health plans to achieve this goal, she said, by promoting inclusive hiring and supporting small businesses led by minorities, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and others often excluded from business opportunities. Plans also call for committing place-based resources to improve the overall well-being of low-income communities of color.

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Dr. Medell Briggs-Malonson

Through work with the Healthcare Anchor Network, Dr. Briggs-Malonson said, she has been inspired by the opportunity to leverage the financial assets of banks and the intellectual assets of UCLA Health to invest in and support socially vulnerable communities.

“If we’re going to continue to promote greater health, especially within historically marginalized and divested communities, we knew we had to lean into those communities and try new community-partnered approaches to transform health and social well-being,” said Dr. Briggs-Malonson, who co-led a session on the topic.

As a member of the Healthcare Anchor Network, UCLA Health is advocating for a holistic approach to health care that focuses on addressing the social drivers of health, or factors that impact the health of people and the communities with which they interact. UCLA Health has structured its approach around five strategic pillars:

  • Diverse hiring: ensuring individuals from the communities it serves have employment opportunities.
  • Impact purchasing: sourcing supplies from local, smaller businesses that stimulate economic growth within communities.
  • Impact investment: allocating resources, including funding and collaboration, to initiatives that promote community wellness.
  • Environmental justice: recognizing and working to address how the “built environment” or factors such as air quality, access to green spaces and air pollution, can significantly affect health outcomes for patients.
  • Community partnerships: UCLA Health’s commitment extends beyond Los Angeles County. Community partnerships emphasize learning from and supporting local organizations and leveraging assets to scale effective interventions.

“Collaborations like ours with HAN allow us to partner and better understand what’s happening locally and across the country, and what practices are working well for other institutions as it relates to addressing racial and social inequities that contribute to poor health outcomes,” Mikel Whittier, director of UCLA Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, said prior to the conference.

Evelyn Tokuyama is the author of this article.

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