Giving Compass’ Take:
• Nonprofit Quarterly discusses how the consequences of poverty, racism and other social inequities have an outsized impact on health — and whether health systems can enact reforms to address those issues.
• One major example is how many hospitals around the country are investing in affordable housing to help the homeless, improving community wellness and reducing the burden on their own limited resources. But can the vast machinery of the U.S. healthcare system really be depended on to address social issues?
• Here are more details on that effort by hospitals to subsidize housing, and whether it is producing results.
Health systems are attempting to tackle a wide range of issues, including domestic violence, food insecurity, utility shutoffs, education, and jobs. But the issue that is getting the most attention and investment dollars is housing. Various studies have concluded that “housing-first policies” that provide shelter and supportive services significantly reduce health care costs …
In many parts of the country, hospitals have decided that housing is too crucial to health outcomes to continue to wait for solutions. According to Healthcare Finance News, over the last several years hospitals have invested as much as $100 million into housing projects. For example, in 2015, five Oregon hospital systems invested $21.5 million in a project to build 400 units for homeless people. In December 2017, Boston Medical Center (BMC) announced a $6.5 million investment over five years in affordable housing in the hospital’s surrounding neighborhoods.
The BMC investment is through a variety of community partnerships. Critical to the hospital’s investment is a plan to study the outcomes. Envisioned as an innovation lab, the hospital hopes to determine “the best ways that health care systems can improve both community and patient level health and reduce medical costs by addressing homelessness and housing insecurity,” according to a BMC press release.
Health systems have an important role to play in their communities. Nonprofit health systems, in particular, have a community benefit obligation, and the shift to seeing that as an opportunity to improve the health of communities is a positive trend. But there are also reasons to be skeptical. Dr. Susan Magnan, former Minnesota commissioner of health, expressed her concerns in a National Academy of Medicine discussion paper, arguing that value-based payments will not “actually get us to better population health outcomes.”
Read the full article about health systems addressing U.S. housing issues by Karen Kahn at Nonprofit Quarterly.
If you are looking for more articles and resources for Homelessness and Housing, take a look at these Giving Compass selections related to impact giving and Homelessness and Housing.
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