Just last week I spoke with future Upstreamists in my own backyard: medical, nursing, and public health students at the 24th Annual UCLA Health Care Symposium. In past years, we’ve had vital conversations at the symposium about the need to move upstream at all levels of health improvement — by addressing not only individual needs, but also the forces that drive health inequity for communities and entire societies. In other words: population health, community health, and societal health.
It’s a big vision. But when I spoke with the students this year, I had the chance to tell them: It’s happening.
We understand — and many of these inspiring young students intuitively grasp — that coordinated action to improve health and its upstream drivers requires action at all three levels. More and more, our work at HealthBegins is to help health systems and community partners understand and act on that imperative.
What’s remarkable is that now we’re seeing tangible early progress in this space, in communities as far-flung as Texas, Montana, and Virginia. For example:
- Just last year we supported the American Hospital Association’s flagship Hospital Community Cooperative program, through which 10 communities across the country advanced more than 300 milestones to improve individual and community health.
- Recently we helped the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association form a statewide learning collaborative to help hospitals move upstream to improve the health of populations and communities.
- Last Monday my colleague Sadena Thevarajah and I joined leaders in South Carolina to launch an initiative to design a statewide strategy to improve social determinants of health by working at all three levels.
- Beyond health systems, community partners like the YMCA of the USA are making early progress in advancing population and community health using a method called Community Health Detailing. (Check out the latest episode of the HLTH Matters podcast with Y of the USA Vice President Katie Adamson!)
What this tells me, and what I told the students, is that addressing health inequity even at its deepest sources is possible, especially when we do it in partnership.
To that end, I’m thrilled to share an upcoming chance to move our collective work up a level further, to the structural determinants that shape health across society. Next Wednesday, March 4, HealthBegins is hosting a free webinar: “Redlining & Health Equity: How Health Systems Can Help Dismantle Structural Racism.” We’re honored to be joined by PolicyLink Founder in Residence Angela Glover Blackwell, along with Josie Williams, director of community engagement at the Greensboro (N.C.) Housing Coalition, for what promises to be a powerful — and actionable — discussion on structural determinants of health.
Join us! (Or, if you can’t make it, sign up to catch the recording after.) As always, we’re excited to be with you on the journey upstream.