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Changing Health by Changing the Community

In an op-ed for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, LISC CEO Maurice A. Jones and Howard Kern, president and CEO of Sentara Healthcare, describe how their new $100 million will take aim at the social determinants of health in Virginia. Investing in housing, job training and placement, education and transportation, among other requisites of a healthy life, are key to closing the life expectancy gap and creating a strong economy, they argue. Now is the time for corporations, nonprofits and charitable organizations to play leadership roles in making those investments a reality.

The excerpt below is from:
Howard Kern and Maurice Jones column: Changing health by changing the community
Richmond Times-Dispatch

A patient with diabetes is taken to the emergency room with complications. She is treated and released, but just weeks later she ends up back in the emergency room with the same complications.

While the patient’s immediate symptoms might have been treated during the initial emergency room visit, the underlying factors behind the readmission might be completely invisible to a physician who is likely seeing and treating this patient for the first time.

In this patient’s case, the underlying cause of the complication wasn’t something that could have been identified through a medical test. In fact, the reason behind the complication isn’t viewed as a traditional health issue at all. On the contrary, the patient had just lost her job and as a result was struggling to afford groceries and medication, and because of transportation costs eventually stopped seeing her primary care doctor.

For this patient, losing her job had a major impact on her health. And many families across the commonwealth are facing a similar challenge, choosing between managing a chronic illness and paying rent or buying groceries.

Increasingly, a number of factors including housing, income, job security, transportation and access to education impacts a person’s health. In fact, studies have shown that nearly 80% of people’s overall wellness is determined by social, environmental and behavioral factors.

As we look to the future, social determinants of health will remain a central concern. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2018, 37 million people struggled with hunger across the United States, and on any given day, 1 in 6 American children do not know where their next meal is coming from.

That’s why as leaders of two not-for-profit organizations dedicated to improving both communities and well-being, we’re embarking on a new partnership to address social determinants of health — the conditions where people live, work and learn. We’re announcing a $100 million investment that we hope will have a lasting impact on health outcomes for people in communities served by Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health across Virginia.

Sentara and Optima are contributing $50 million, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) has committed to assemble an additional $50 million from public and private sources to complement Sentara’s investment to develop housing and economic opportunities in the areas of Virginia that need them most. Sentara’s resources will be deployed in two phases providing an initial $10 million in grant funding, and another $40 million to be invested through loans over the next seven to 10 years.

Our investment goes beyond addressing health care in the doctor’s office and hospital emergency room. By taking on some of our most fundamental issues in population health such as access to care, behavioral health, affordable housing and food insecurity, we seek to alleviate some of the strain facing Virginians to create safe and healthy environments for families.

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