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Cleveland Clinic Focusing More On Neighborhood Health

Nonprofit hospitals are increasingly facing pressure to address issues outside of medicine that may affect a person’s health, such as housing, transportation, and employment. 

This is new terrain for medical providers, as local health leaders acknowledged at a recent meeting of the nonprofit public health consortium Better Health Partnership

The panel included hospital leaders from Akron Children’s Hospital, MetroHealth, and the Cleveland Clinic.

Panelists often referenced the fact that 80% of a person’s health is wrapped up in their social and economic circumstances, and only 20% is related to direct medical care.

Dr. Adam Myers is in his first year as Cleveland Clinic’s Director of Community Care, a newly created position. He says the system is refocusing to address community conditions—something the Clinic previously felt was beyond its mission, according to its most recent Community Health Needs Assessment from 2016.

"Traditionally, health systems have viewed our responsibility to end somewhere around where our doors were, and that’s changed," said Myers. "There’s a recognition that we can’t help with everything, we can’t solve everything that happens in the community surrounding us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t contribute. So what has traditionally, for many health systems, been the response of 'because I can’t fix that and it’s outside of my sweet spot, I’m just not going there,' has really shifted now."

Panelists spoke of partnering with social service providers, like food banks, to address root causes of poor health, but did not go into specifics about financial commitments, with some citing narrow operating margins.

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