Why's Health Suddenly So Hot?

Alisha's Blog | February 24, 2015

The Affordable Care Act gave health care entities new incentives to switch their focus from treating illness to fostering health. There’s expanding recognition that other sectors also have a role in promoting health and healthy communities. Our new can help these groups learn how to work together.

I’m participating next month in the Arizona Housing Alliance’s Healthy Communities Conference. The event will bring together stakeholders you don’t often see in the same room -- at least not until recently. They include:

  • Community development practitioners.
  • Affordable housing developers. 
  • Health care providers. 

I’m thrilled that these cross-sector groups are talking to each other about the connected role they have in promoting health and healthy communities. 

And I’m looking forward to talking with stakeholders about the ideas we address in a new toolkit from the LeadingAge Center for Housing Plus Services.

We created the Housing and Health Partnerships Toolkit, with support from the AARP Foundation, to help the housing, community development, and health care sectors understand each other better so they can work together to create healthy communities, especially within affordable senior housing communities.

Why Now?

Why is everyone suddenly so hot on health? Much credit goes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for encouraging an increased focus on improving the health of Americans, particularly the most vulnerable among us.

The ACA spurred new exploration and action to improve health and health care delivery systems. There’s obviously still a long way to go. 

But there’s definitely a new awareness that we’ve got to think differently -- and more broadly -- about health.

First, we’ve got to admit that good health doesn’t miraculously “happen” in the doctor’s office and the hospital. Instead, a person’s health status is often determined by his or her neighborhood, access to healthy foods, education, stress levels, access to transportation, and many other social factors. Medical care, in fact, only accounts for a small portion of a person’s health.

Several years back, a survey by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 85% of physicians believe unmet social needs are leading directly to worse health for Americans. Yet, only 20% of doctors feel they have the ability to help address those needs.

Given these findings, it seems like a "no-brainer" to foster collaborations between health care and community-based providers. Unfortunately, these partnerships are slow to take hold, due to a variety of factors -- including will and know-how.

Until recently, health care entities haven’t really had much incentive to switch their focus from treating illness to fostering health. But new payment methods that focus on outcomes are giving health care providers the will to help individuals and populations achieve good health.

These new enticements alone aren't enough to change the way the health care system operates. The wide range of organizations that influence the nation’s health must work together if we’re going to see any sustainable changes in the nation’s health care status.

But, first, those organizations need to learn how to work together. Our Housing and Health Partnerships Toolkit helps provide that “know-how.”

A Toolkit for Building Partnerships

The Housing and Health Partnerships Toolkit contains a variety of components that I think you will find very informative and practical.

Start with our 3-minute video, which provides a nice overview of the valuable attributes affordable senior housing properties can bring to the table to help health care entities better manage the care of their more vulnerable patients. 

The animated feature is a good way to show health care organizations that housing can be much more than simply a roof over someone’s head.

Plan to spend some time with our in-depth guide, which:

  • Helps housing organizations better understand health care reform.
  • Outlines how housing properties can help health care providers address several of the care-related challenges they face.
  • Offers examples of housing-health partnerships that are already taking place across the country.
  • Provides some direction for initiating conversations between potential collaborators and designing potential partnerships. 

Check out our video interviews with a variety of health care practitioners. Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, a physician and winner of a MacArthur Genius Award for his health delivery reform work, describes why he thinks affordable housing properties are an ideal place for “actionable strategies” to address the needs of a vulnerable and costly population. 

Additional health care providers also comment on how collaborations with affordable housing settings have enhanced their work. 

Let’s Keep the Conversation Going

I hope you’ll get in touch with the Center for Housing Plus Services after you've had a chance to review our toolkit. 

Let us know what you think of it, and what additional resources you need to begin exploring housing and health partnerships in your own community.

In addition, drop me a line at asanders@leadingage.org to share news about how you are exploring and developing partnerships.

We’re all at the forefront of developing something new and there’s a lot to learn from each other. Let the conversations begin -- and continue!