Health Collaborative Invests Millions in Dire Communities

January 8, 2020

14 U.S. hospitals and health systems invest $700 million into strengthening communities in need.

In late 2019, 14 United States hospitals and health systems announced a $700 million investment to create strong and healthy communities, according to a release by The Democracy Collaborative, a national leader in equitable, inclusive and sustainable community wealth development.

These hospitals and health systems collaborating include those of national and regional health systems that are the largest private sector employers in California, Utah, and Wisconsin, along with others among the top 20 largest employers in their states.

According to the release, this collaboration was initiated because the health investors know the need to address the fundamental root causes of poor health is immense and they want to take action now.

Additionally, the initiative is to deepen institutional leadership in the Healthcare Anchor Network, and the healthcare sector more broadly, by making bold, measurable commitments in this core Anchor Mission strategy area, the release says.

Related: Investing in the Future

Despite record low unemployment and an overall strong economy, the U.S. is experiencing disparities in its economy, health, and well-being.

We live in a world where your zip code could mean a lifespan a decade shorter than someone in a neighboring wealthier area, the release says.

A recent NYU study shows 56 of some of the biggest U.S. cities have very large life expectancy gaps, where on average people in one neighborhood can expect to live 20 to 30 years longer than their neighbors a few miles away. 

Factors outside hospital walls-social, economic, environmental, and behavior-related-account for up to 80% of the health outcomes a community experiences.

In addition to providing quality healthcare, these hospitals and health systems are investing in safe and affordable housing, equitable economic development, small and diverse business development, and other strategies for addressing the social determinants of health. They are also rethinking how to align, leverage, and deploy their human resources and power to create a local economic eco-system to support economic and health wellness, The Democracy Collaborative says.

The 14 investors in the collaboration include: Advocate Aurora Health, Anchorum St. Vincent, Bon Secours Mercy Health, Boston Medical Center, CommonSpirit Health, Einstein Healthcare Network, Henry Ford Health System, Intermountain Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, ProMedica, Rush University Medical Center, RWJBarnabas Health, Trinity Health, and UMass Memorial Health Care.

According to the release, the goal is to create sustainable returns for the institutions while deploying that investment capital to address social determinant of health needs in their communities.

Place-based investing creates healthy and thriving communities by increasing available capital for positive social, economic, or environmental impact. It also supports local and diverse business development and empowers low-income people to create, manage, and own enterprises. These investments will be leveraged several times over to have an even greater impact in communities nationwide.

HAN systems’ investments include financing for affordable housing development, building a new grocery store in a food desert, childcare centers, federally qualified health centers, and Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) and local businesses.

There’s also a business impact case for the social impact investing. These institutions can further align their capital with sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and community benefit priorities. They can also achieve a more diversified and impactful investment strategy, the release says.

These institutions are members of the Healthcare Anchor Network (HAN) that supports health systems to accelerate learning and local implementation of economic inclusion strategies. The HAN hospitals and health systems together employ more than 1.5 million people, purchase over $50 billion annually, and have over $100 billion in investment assets.

“In the last two-and-a-half years, the HAN members have moved forward to collaborate on strategies and to align their business operations to tackle the structural and economic drivers of poor health through place-based investing, as well as through local, inclusive hiring and procurement,” says Dave Zuckerman, HAN director. “Anchor mission work utilizes and leverages local community resources to address jobs, training, small business support, and equitable community development. It's individual and community wealth building.”

Boston Medical Center President and CEO Kate Walsh says Boston Medical Center became an early member of the Healthcare Anchor Network because they know thriving communities are directly tied to the health and wellness of our patients.

In addition to the work they do every day to keep their patients healthy, they felt that committing financial resources to support the construction of a neighborhood supermarket would have significant impact by providing employment opportunities and healthy food in the communities where their patients live, Walsh says.

Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson says they’ve committed to invest $200 million to address housing affordability, homelessness, and related challenges in communities across the nation to improve the health of their members and the communities they serve.

“As a co-founder of the Healthcare Anchor Network, we hope this collective commitment by the 14 health systems will help encourage others to invest alongside us in support of healthier communities and making meaningful progress towards improving the future of health and health care in this country,” Tyson added.