More than anything else in our lifetime, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the interconnectivity of all facets of our nation’s health and social welfare system. History will record our response, lessons learned and actions in hopes of mitigating future events. COVID-19 has placed a bright light on our country’s yet-to-be-realized opportunity to create optimal health.

When we fail to seriously address our society’s underlying chronic illnesses and fall short of protecting public health, we put the health of our people, institutions and economy at risk. Food security, adequate housing and freedom from poverty are among the most critical drivers of lifelong physical and mental health, yet our healthcare system is simply not designed to tackle these problems without partnerships.

As centralized providers of care in every community, health systems experience firsthand the significant impact that these social determinants of health play in our patients’ lives. To help improve the social drivers of poor health, health systems must increasingly become active partners in, or catalysts for, strong, strategic and well-coordinated multisector partnerships within communities. Prioritizing this work can help change the narrative on what “health and wellness” really means.

What are the secrets to building lasting and transformative partnerships to successfully address the social determinants of health for entire communities?

  • Partner with organizations to split the risk and the reward.
  • Adopt a population mindset.
  • Build trust.
  • Prioritize the voice of the community.

For this next generation, more than any other population, this is healthcare’s most vital mission, because addressing these all-important social determinants will lift every child’s chances for lifelong health, well-being and success. This is how we can reduce chronic illness into adulthood and enhance public health for generations to come.

Read the full article about health systems in community partnerships by Lawrence Moss at Forbes.