Whether they realize it or not, businesses have the potential tomake a huge impact on the overall health of their communities. Thesuccess of a community health initative depends on a varietyof factors, most crucially, the project leader.

|

When considering whether to participate in a community healthinitiative, potential business partners value above all else thecredibility of the group leader. That’s the conclusion drawnby a diverse group of researchers who set out to identify the mostimportant factors corporations take into account before entering acommunity health project.

|

The Health Enhancement Research Organization—HERO—sponsored themulti-phase study, which was partly funded by the Robert WoodJohnson Foundation. The report waspublished in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicinein November. The researchers compiled information from literature,in-person and online interviews, and found six factors to be mostinfluential in securing business involvement.

  1. Credibility of the convener (41 percent)

  2. Broad representation of the community (30 percent)

  3. Strong mission and goals (27 percent)

  4. Individual commitment to health (10 percent)

  5. Organizational commitment to health (6 percent)

  6. Demonstrated commitment from leadership (6 percent)

The first factor was so significant that researchers delved abit more deeply into it, culling out what businesses were lookingfor in a convener, or leader. “… The convener [must be]successful, [ready] to drive change, and [be able] to present as aneutral entity in bringing and keeping stakeholders to theinitiative,” the report said. Business also expects the convenerto, among other qualities:

  • Be a champion for the mission/goal

  • Be a source of tools and resources for the effort

  • Be seen as an authentic, trusted leader, and a thought leader inparticular, in the community

  • Be seen as a leader in health and well-being

  • Be focused on high-impact projects and outcomes

Employer as Convener
|

The convener need not be a government agency or nonprofit, butcould well be an employer, said Karen Moseley, HERO’s vicepresident of education and director of operations.

|

Moseley, who managed the research project, cited the example ofthe food service company Schwan’s, which has been a convener ofhealth-related community initiatives in Marshall, MN., whereSchwan’s is headquartered. The town of less than 15,000 looks toSchwan’s for project leadership, she said, because it hasdemonstrated a commitment to improving the quality of life in itshometown.

|

“Schwan’s has made a significant health impact in Marshall,” shesaid.

|

In Portland, Oregon, a recent example of a community healthpartnership led by a nonprofit convener was in the news earlier inthe month. Central City Concern, a nonprofit that provides a rangeof services to the homeless, leads a broad partnership thatjust broke ground for a facility that integrates affordablehousing, mental and physical health, and employment services in asingle facility.

|

It is the third project undertaken by the partnership, whichincludes U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp., insurerCareOregon, and several major healthcare organizations that servethe Portland area (Oregon Health & Science University,Providence Health & Services, Kaiser Permanente Northwest,Adventist Health and Legacy Health).

|

Central City Concern is able to assemble partnerships to addresscommunity health issues in creative ways, and attract corporatesupport, because it has been a leader in such initiatives for 20years, says Sean Hubert, the nonprofits chief housing andemployment officer.

|
20 Priorities
|

“We have had a long relationship with US. bank here in Portland.We’ve done a number projects with them over the years so they’vebeen able to see the results of the work we do. It’s notchallenging at all to get them involved. It’s something that doesprovide the bank with an opportunity for awareness and publicityBut it also fits into the mission of the CDC side, which iscommunity investments.”

|

Additionally, the health system members of the collaborationhave been on board since 2007, he says, when Central City Concernproposed they work together on a pilot project that would focus onreducing the number of emergency room trips made by homeless peoplein the downtown Portland area. When the project reduced thosecostly trips by 95 percent, the partnership solidified.

|

The integrated housing program hits solidly on all six keyfactors cited by the HERO report. It’s led by a strong convener. Ithas broad community support. The mission—to bring housing, healthand employment services under one roof—couldn’t be more clear. Theorganizations and their representatives are committed to communityhealth, and the members have shown previously they could get aneffective program off the ground.

|

While U.S. Bank and Scwan’s are major employers, small employerscan be participants and even conveners when they identifyinitiatives that benefit both their workforce and the community inwhich they are located.

|

“A small business may not have the financial resources to investin a comprehensive employee health plan. But by getting involvedwith a community health initiative, such as creating walkingtrails, and providing employee volunteers and some investmentdollars, they can improve employee health and benefit the entirecommunity,” she said.

|

Especially in the case of smaller communities that wish todevelop health initiatives, the importance of a credible, trustedconvener is critical to the success of such projects, Moseley said.“Nobody wants to enter in to an initiative without some guaranteeof success,” she said. “A convener who has led successful projectswill attract the right participants.”

|

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and BenefitsPRO.com events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.

Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.