The Impact of Community Investment on Health Outcomes

As hospitals, health systems, and health plans become increasingly interested in community investment, CCI is frequently asked about how investment translates to health outcomes. What’s challenging about answering these questions is that investing in the social determinants of health is a relatively new intervention for health institutions. We know that the social determinants have a significant effect on individual and community health, for instance, when differences in social determinants in different communities create disparities in asthma prevalence and severity. We know that community investment can improve the social determinants, for example, by reducing vacancy and creating healthy and affordable homes, which in turn reduce asthma. However, few health institutions have been investing in their communities for long enough, and at a large enough scale, to measure with confidence the direct and/or long-term effects of their efforts.

One hospital that has been investing in nearby neighborhoods for a meaningful length of time is Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH), whose Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Family community development initiative has been making a difference in Columbus, Ohio, since 2008. In a new paper, A Community Development Program and Reduction in High-Cost Health Care Use, published this week in Pediatrics, researchers at NCH (a participant in CCI’s Accelerating Investments for Healthy Communities initiative), tackle the question of outcomes. Their findings suggest that community development activities may influence children’s healthcare use. As importantly, their research provides a model for rigorous, multidisciplinary outcomes measurement that will be useful to the field for many years to come.

Further Reading

Transforming investment in communities

CCI is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The California Endowment, and The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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