Observation Deck: Time to take a bigger-picture view of healthcare?

Mark Thill

Healthcare is always asking for more from everyone. Better outcomes. Greater access. Lower costs. Greater connection between patient and provider. Sometimes those demands directly impact those in supply chain. Sometimes the effect is less direct.

Take population health. It’s an exciting topic – one that is forcing providers to take a much broader view of their mission than ever before. Here are two examples.

Housing is Health
In September, six Oregon healthcare organizations announced they would invest $21.5 million in a partnership with Central City Concern to respond to Portland’s challenges in affordable housing, homelessness and healthcare. “This project reflects what we’ve known for a long time – health begins where we live, learn, work, and play,” Governor Kate Brown was quoted as saying. “Stable, affordable housing and healthcare access are so often intertwined, and I’m gratified to see collaborative solutions coming from some of our state’s leading organizations.”

The investment will support 382 new housing units across three locations. The Eastside Health Center will serve medically fragile people and people in recovery from addictions and mental illness with a first-floor clinic and housing for 176 people. The Stark Street apartments in East Portland will provide 155 units of workforce housing. The Interstate apartments in North Portland will provide 51 units designed for families; it is part of Portland’s North/Northeast Neighborhood Housing Strategy to help displaced residents return to their neighborhood.

The healthcare organizations contributing $21.5 million to the initiative are:

  • Adventist Health Portland
  • CareOregon
  • Kaiser Permanente Northwest
  • Legacy Health
  • OHSU
  • Providence Health & Services – Oregon

Market on the Green
Toledo, Ohio-based ProMedica has partnered with philanthropist Russell Ebeid to establish ProMedica Ebeid Institute, dedicated to increasing access to healthy food, delivering nutritional education and providing job-training opportunities. Its cornerstone is Market on the Green in Downtown Toledo, a full-service grocery market offering fresh and affordable healthy food choices – many of them grown or made locally – to a designated food desert. Shoppers can also find everyday necessities, such as toiletries and pet food.

ProMedica believes that hunger is a health issue. In addition to Market on the Green, the IDN works with community agencies, faith organizations, businesses, and elected leaders to end hunger. Strategies include:

  • Food reclamation. ProMedica employs people to safely repackage unserved food from restaurants and other food services in the Toledo area. This food is then distributed by a local food bank to homeless shelters, communal feeding sites and food pantries.
  • Food security screening. When ProMedica identifies hospital patients who lack consistent access to food, they send them home at discharge with an emergency food supply and connect them to other community resources for further assistance.
  • Food Council. ProMedica actively participates in the Northwest Ohio Food Council, working together with other members to impact the food system from grower to end user.
  • Revealing Hunger Exhibit. This traveling photographic exhibit, featuring images by nine local residents facing hunger, was created to raise awareness of hunger in the community.

As I said, some of these projects may involve supply chain, some may not. But all serve as challenges to take a much broader view of healthcare today and tomorrow.