What meeting did you attend?
The Association for Community Health Improvement‘s annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. I helped organize the first ever community development track, co-led a community development overview session with Amy Gillman from Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and co-organized a community development and health metrics session with Jessica Mulcahy from Success Measures at NeighborWorks and Nancy Pollock from the Stewards for Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF).
Hospitals and health systems are under increasing pressure to invest in and improve population health but there is a lot of concern about what that means exactly and how to do that effectively. There is real interest in partnering with other organizations to do that work.
Whom did you meet?
I met a lot of fascinating people from the health field who are really interested in the link between community development and health. For example, leaders from the American Hospital Association, the American Heart Association, Dignity health, and the Democracy Collaborative. Particularly exciting was meeting new community development colleagues at this health meeting including Capital Impact Partners, LISC, the Reinvestment Fund, the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA), and the CDFI Fund – many of whom came specifically because they saw the community development track!
Were there any sessions that stood out to you?
I attended most of the sessions on the community development track and it was great to see the enormous interest and packed audiences. One session that stood out was the opening plenary where Jonathan Perlin from the Hospital Corporation of America spoke eloquently about the importance of hospitals working with neighborhoods to address the social determinants of health and improve community health. His speech set the tone for the conference and was a reminder of the opportunities that exist for working across sectors.
What were the key issues you found interesting at this meeting?
Hospitals and health systems are under increasing pressure to invest in and improve population health but there is a lot of concern about what that means exactly and how to do that effectively. There is real interest in partnering with other organizations to do that work. I attended the meeting last year and there were few to no community development organizations present. We’ve had great success in bringing public health and medical colleagues to community development meetings such as the Opportunity Finance Network meeting last fall, but this ACHI meeting represented a great opportunity to bring community development colleagues to a medical meeting. This year there seemed to be great excitement about the community development track and potential for future collaboration. The conference confirmed my gut instinct that there would be great interest and shared goals between community development professionals, hospitals, and community benefit officers.
Hospitals are well positioned to have a deep local knowledge of communities’ needs and where investments might have the greatest impact.
What can community development learn from the health field when it comes to neighborhood revitalization?
One thing that stood out is that hospitals are well positioned to have a deep local knowledge of communities’ needs and where investments might have the greatest impact. Because hospitals now have to undertake regular community health needs assessments (CHNAs) and demonstrate an effort to act upon the needs they identify, they are both a good source of knowledge and excellent partners in community investment because they have shared goals with the community development sector.
What will the Network do as a result of this meeting?
We hope to extend this theme of increased cross sector collaboration into next year’s conference. There is huge potential to link people and organizations to each other. In particular, here at the Network we plan to follow up with the American Hospital Association and discuss how the Network can support and promote their ongoing population health efforts.
Top photo: from left, Doug Jutte, Jessica Mulcahy, Amy Gillman, Lolly Durotoye