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The Office of Health Equity is celebrating ‘Community Health Improvement Week’ — here’s why

Jun. 6, 2022, 7:00 AM


by Holly Fletcher

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Office of Health Equity is spotlighting community partnerships around the region to bolster well-being as part of the national Community Health Improvement Week, led by the American Hospital Association and AHA Community Health Improvement.

Effective partnerships with community organizations are key to the Medical Center’s mission to make health care personal for its patients and the region, said Elisa Friedman, Associate Vice President of Community Health and Health Equity at VUMC. Community organizations provide vital resources and support to people who may face a variety of obstacles navigating their way through the health care system as well as those who have barriers such as food access, transportation, housing, or are impacted by other social and economic factors that contribute to well-being.

“The Community Health Improvement Week is an exciting opportunity to recognize and amplify the necessary and important work that VUMC is supporting beyond the boundaries of its campuses. Most of what leads to a person’s well-being, or lack thereof, is outside the clinic walls, so it is important that we energetically pursue relationships and celebrate existing ones. Improving health outcomes takes a community, and this week is a chance for the greater VUMC community to demonstrate how partnerships beyond the delivery system can make real change,” said Friedman.

In 2019, VUMC launched OHE with the goal of coordinating and catalyzing health equity initiatives across VUMC and in the community. OHE offers a growing roster of funding opportunities, training resources and collaboration tools to foster a community-engaged approach to community health and health equity across Middle Tennessee.

This includes OHE’s Community Health Improvement mini-grant program that funds innovative projects in surrounding counties, the Lewis B. Lefkowitz Fund that supports community health immersive and health equity experiences for students, as well as the Community Health Data & Resource platform that provides “Promising Practices”, external funding opportunities, data resources, and more.

“We value the people who help address food insecurity and financial strain and provide job opportunities. Developing a deep, collaborative network of organizations that share a mission of improving people’s lives is not only complementary to VUMC’s high quality care but crucial to the long-term health of our patients,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer and an AHA board member.

VUMC was selected to participate in an AHA 2022 cohort of the Hospital Community Collaborative, which supports hospitals and community organizations in working together to accelerate health equity. The 2022 cohort will focus on initiatives that address community-level social factors that impact behavioral health and well-being.

The Medical Center’s first Community Health Needs Assessment in 2013 identified mental health as a priority, and improving mental well-being is a shared goal for organizations around Nashville. The AHA Collaborative will give VUMC, Metro Public Health Department, which is a key collaborator, and partner hospitals, including Ascension Saint Thomas, additional tools to address this urgent community need.

Follow the Office of Health Equity on Twitter @VUMCHlthEquity to see the breadth of the relationships and help increase visibility of the partnership opportunities during the weeklong nationwide campaign. Connect with the team on their website to get involved.

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