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Ministry draws from community ties, technology to advance population health, justice

July 1, 2015

Melanie Dreher, Trinity Health board chair and sponsor member; Dr. Rod Hochman, Providence Health & Services president and chief executive; and Sr. Kathleen Pruitt, CSJP, PeaceHealth board member and sponsor member, discuss ways Catholic health care systems can improve the health of communities during a pre-assembly forum for ministry sponsors.
Photo credit: Evelyn Hockstein/© CHA

By BETSY TAYLOR

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The nation's emerging focus on population health improvements ties into a long Catholic health care tradition of caring for the whole person and the importance of building communities where people can pursue healthy lifestyles and prosper, said three ministry leaders at a pre-assembly sponsor forum.

In that panel session on June 7 called "Advancing Population Health and Social Justice in the New Century," Melanie Dreher, Trinity Health board chair and a member of its sponsor Catholic Health Ministries, called population health just one dimension of working toward overall community health. She said Catholic health care systems have an important role to play in efforts to create healthy and safe communities. "It hardly makes sense to treat people medically and then send them back to the same place that was the source of their poor health," Dreher said.

Sr. Kathleen Pruitt, CSJP, sponsor member and board member for Vancouver, Wash.-based PeaceHealth, said she worries that populations of people will come to be defined by insurers, or by the lives that are insured. For Catholic health care, population health and social justice work should instead focus on creating networks of care to foster healthy communities. She also spoke of drawing from the past to move forward. She noted the tradition of religious and lay partners working together to respond to community needs, for all people.

Sr. Pruitt called for enlisting more community resources in the effort to improve community health. She said Catholic health care systems don't have to do it all, that they can build partnerships with others to meet needs. She suggested inviting organizations such as fire departments, public health departments and others to contribute to the work by saying: "Join us, or may we join you, in addressing the needs of this community?"

Dr. Rod Hochman, president and chief executive of Renton, Wash.-based Providence Health & Services, said of population health work, "It takes a different mindset. This acute-care mindset, you have to dispense with it."

He said the basics remain important in efforts to improve the health of populations, such as making sure people have needed immunizations. But he also made the case for thinking about ways to innovate to improve the health of communities. He pointed to Providence Health & Services hiring new staff with experience in technology, including online-related industries. They're able to work on websites and apps to encourage people to become more involved in their own health choices.

He detailed a few innovative ways that Providence is working to advance population health, including its involvement with Sqord, a company that makes a wearable electronic activity tracker for children that encourages children to pay attention to their activity level and provides games to get kids moving. Providence Ventures, the health system's investment fund, announced a $2.3 million investment in the Seattle-based startup in a June news release.

 

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