NM 2035 Goal Review: Deepen Relationships With Our Community to Improve Health Equity
September 19, 2023 | 6 min. read
By working with local leaders and representatives to understand the health needs of the community, NM will be better positioned to support Bronzeville residents in improving their overall health and well-being with the opening of the new 120,000-square-foot advanced outpatient care center in 2025
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines health equity as “the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health.” Improving health equity by deepening relationships within the community is one of the five goals of NM 2035:Better From Discovery to Delivery.
The Health Equity/Community pillar outlines the health system’s role in improving health equity with the following long-term objectives:
Use evidence-based approaches to improve patient care quality and to reduce and eliminate disparities.
Develop community partnerships to enable better access and health.
Drive meaningful improvement in social determinants of health (SDOH) in local communities.
Support economic development through jobs and training programs.
“Many patients and communities within the NM service area lack the vital resources that directly impact health, the consequences of which are greater disease burden and poor health outcomes,” says Posh Charles, senior vice president of Administration and one of four executive sponsors of the FY24 work on this pillar. “NM has a responsibility to reduce disparities in care, support communities through jobs and economic development, and work closely with our local partners to expand healthcare access and address SDOH needs.”
Charles says Northwestern Medicine teams have been working hard on targeted efforts to improve health equity over the past several years. “We are impressed by the commitment of many NM employees and physicians who are already making a difference, and who are excited and ready to build upon these efforts,” he notes.
In addition to Charles, other executives who will lead the FY24 Health Equity/Community include:
Dinee C. Simpson, MD, FACS, chief health equity executive, director of the African American Transplant Access Program, and vice chair of Faculty Development and Diversity in the Department of Surgery
Clyde W. Yancy, MD, MSc, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion vice dean and chief of the Division of Cardiology
Ann Hall, vice president of Administration
Kristin Ramsey, MSN, RN, NE-BC, senior vice president of Quality and Wood-Prince Family chief nurse executive, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Medical Group
Jeff Good, chief sustainability executive and vice president of Operations for Northwestern Medical Group
Together, they will lead four initiatives in fiscal year 2024 focusing on health equity and community:
Develop and activate the Office of Health Equity with a governance structure and integrated plan.
Advance the Bronzeville Outpatient Center project and further community relationships.
Improve health disparities by identifying a single health equity metric to impact; develop an initial supporting program to launch performance improvement.
Enhance sustainability and environmental stewardship across the organization.
“One of our first steps this year will be to stand up the Office of Health Equity,” Dr. Simpson says. “The broad vision is to draw together all of the incredible expertise we have in our health system to create a powerhouse that will leverage both existing resources and new ideas to realize health equity for all of our patients. Health equity requires a team effort, and I am looking forward to learning from others and sharing ideas as we take on this important work and shape the initiatives of this office. I believe we have the potential to be national leaders in this space.”
NM has existing relationships with nearly a dozen community organizations that provide health care; access to shelter and nutritious food; and programs to help reduce violence, address trauma and build safer communities. Improving health equity will involve expanding these already robust relationships with existing community partners while also developing new ones.
“One of the best opportunities NM has to enhance relationships with its surrounding communities is through the development of the new Bronzeville location,” says Hall. “The Bronzeville initiative involves establishing relationships with local leaders and representatives to better understand the existing health needs in the community. Understanding those needs will help NM implement the types of services that are truly needed, those that will best support the community and help residents there improve their overall health and well-being.”
To further support all the health equity work over the short and long term, NM will leverage its relationships with Northwestern University (NU) and Feinberg School of Medicine, one of the 12 colleges at NU. By collaborating more closely with university partners, NM can build the research mechanisms needed to better understand the impact of its Health Equity/Community efforts. The results of that research will help shape tactics to ensure the community work delivers the greatest impact where it’s needed most.
“Never before have we aligned NM, NU and Feinberg School of Medicine on such a bold singular community-focused purpose,” says Dr. Yancy. “This alignment catalyzes our separate efforts, coalesces our respective assets, and yields a new force to reduce and aspirationally eliminate health inequities. Importantly, this becomes yet another learning laboratory, testing hypotheses and informing durable changes in the healthcare ecosystem, particularly at NM.”
“NM follows the mantra of ‘better,’” Dr. Yancy continues. “Targeting health equity is befitting of better: better relationships with communities, better impact on SDOH, better disease outcomes and better health — for everybody.”