Florida’s nonprofit hospitals serve as essential community resources. Every day, hospitals are reaching out to address their communities’ immediate and long-term needs. This commitment, outlined by a recent survey of hospitals conducted by the Florida Hospital Association, is part of the annual $4 billion in services, programs and activities hospitals provide that benefit the health and well-being of their communities.
To maximize the scope, reach and impact of these programs, hospitals work in partnership with government, faith-based, law enforcement, social services, educational and other community groups. In addition, hospitals regularly conduct assessments of their communities’ unique health needs to identify gaps and opportunities to not only improve care, but also improve environmental and social factors that impact health. Community health needs assessments ensure resources are targeted to develop hyperlocal, community-driven and truly impactful programs.
Hospital community benefit partnerships are as large and diverse as Florida itself. From children and the elderly, to veterans and people with disabilities, Florida’s hospitals are actively engaged in activities to improve health, strengthen their communities and reduce financial, social and geographic barriers to care.
Hospital community benefit partnerships have many faces and include programs such as mobile food pantries, free back-to-school physicals and cancer screenings, opioid overdose treatment, mental health first aid, homeless services and chronic disease management programs.
With increasing attention to the role of social determinants of health — such as socioeconomic status, physical environment, and education — the importance of our community benefit partnerships cannot be overstated. According to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, just 10% to 20% of what creates health is related to access to care and the quality of health care services received. More than 40% of the factors that contribute to the length and quality of life are social and economic; another 30% are health behaviors, directly shaped by socio‐economic factors; and another 10% are related to the physical environment where people live and make day-to-day choices.
Hospitals serve as “anchor” institutions in their communities. This “anchor” status goes well beyond the economic impact hospitals provide as large employers and high wage job creators. Hospitals, unlike traditional corporations, have deep roots in their communities. They are committed to their place of origin. These roots mean they have a vested interest to ensure their communities are safe, healthy and stable, which in turn drives their investment in community benefit partnerships whose functions go well beyond the provision of direct care.
Equipping the Next Generation for a Health Care Career
Baptist Health Jacksonville and AdventHealth are just two examples of Florida health systems working to improve their communities by training young people for a potential career in health care. These programs allow high school students to explore various health care professions and add valuable real-world experience to their résumé — all before entering a college classroom for the first time. As their mentors state, “I wish we had a program like this when I was a kid.”
Baptist Medical Center Nassau: Tipping the Scale Mentoring Program
Since 1999, Tipping the Scale, a nationally recognized youth mentoring and advocacy program, has served more than 1,700 high school students from Jacksonville’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. This community benefit partnership between Baptist Health, the Bridge of Northeast Florida and the Boys & Girls Club of Jacksonville provides career preparation, mock job interviews, and paid work experience and support, pairing high school students with Baptist Health team members who volunteer as employment and academic mentors. Learn more about the Tipping the Scale program and other community benefit projects at www.missiontocare.org.
AdventHealth’s Healthy Futures Program
Since 2018, AdventHealth hospitals throughout Volusia County offer internships for local students interested in pursuing careers within health care. Through this partnership, local high school students gain hands-on experience while working alongside AdventHealth clinical team members. Watch a video about two students’ experiences with a physical therapy internship at AdventHealth DeLand. For more information about the partnership, visit the Volusia County Schools website.
Crystal Stickle is the Interim President of the Florida Hospital Association.