Population health is a hot topic. But what does it mean in practical terms?

Population health encompasses clinical and nonclinical approaches for improving health, preventing disease and reducing health disparities. It also means creating a society that gives all individuals an equal opportunity to live the healthiest life they can, whatever their ethnic, geographic, racial, socio-economic or physical circumstances may be.

But hospitals cannot do it alone. Collaborations — specifically, hospital-community partnerships — are nonclinical yet essential in addressing community health issues and creating a larger impact: building a “Culture of Health.”

With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the American Hospital Association’s Health Research & Educational Trust has developed a playbook of effective methods, tools and strategies to create new partnerships and sustain successful existing ones. The playbook incorporates lessons learned from HRET’s Learning in Collaborative Communities, a cohort of 10 communities from across the United States with strong, successful hospital-community partnerships.

New and existing partnerships can use innovative strategies, tools and worksheets in this playbook to identify partners and their assets; host community collaborative meetings; define roles and responsibilities in a collaborative; address common goals in a collaborative; create an action plan; measure partnership effectiveness; overcome obstacles; and celebrate progress.

Hospitals, health systems and community organizations can use this playbook to carve a path forward that encourages the creation of new partnerships and enhances existing collaborations to foster more robust and sustainable collaborations. Practices in this playbook can be implemented to drive a partnership toward success based on its needs and momentum.

Whether your partnership adopts a slow but steady start by simply creating a formalized meeting agenda and assigning roles and responsibilities to partners or implements an accelerated process that integrates worksheets, planning exercises and site visits to engage all partners, these practices help ensure partnerships are advancing their communities toward a Culture of Health.

If we are to truly realize the AHA’s vision of a society of healthy communities, where all individuals reach their highest potential for health, it will take working together with like-minded organizations in a way similar to the partnerships outlined in this playbook. I encourage you to take a look at it and discuss with your board what you are doing to create a Culture of Health in your community. Visit www.hpoe.org to download “A Playbook for Fostering Hospital-Community Partnerships to Build a Culture of Health” today.

Andy Stern (andystern@sunwestpr.com) is chair of the American Hospital Association Committee on Governance and a trustee of Medical City Dallas Hospital in Dallas.



Collaborations — specifically, hospital-community partnerships — are nonclinical yet essential in addressing community health issues and creating a larger impact.