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Population Health is Not a New Concept

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, June 26, 2013

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is only now putting a spotlight on the good work that's been going on in community health programs for decades. This week, five hospital-led collaboratives will be recognized for their work.


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Rhonda Brown

For all the media coverage the trendy terms "population health" and "community health" have received in the last few months, it may seem like the idea did not exist before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became law three years ago.

It is true that under PPACA healthcare providers are suppose to be weaned away from fee-for-service, volume-based reimbursements and pushed toward value-based, preventative care and shared savings. That will require some significant outreach beyond hospital walls and into the communities that hospitals serve. It is important to remember, however, that hundreds of providers in towns and cities across the country have been doing this outreach for decades before PPACA arrived.

The American Hospital Association on July 27 will present its annual NOVA award to five hospital-led collaboratives that have improved community health. The winning programs are Bangor Beacon Community in Bangor, ME; Hope Clinic and Pharmacy in Danville, KY; Free Preventive Screenings Program in Vincennes, IN; Chippewa Health Improvement Partnership in Chippewa Falls, WI; and Core Health Program of Healthier Communities in Grand Rapids, MI.

Rhonda Brown, director of the Chippewa Health Improvement Partnership, says the program has flourished since its founding in 1994 because of the "collaborative spirit" within the community.

"You have to be able to get out and get engaged with the community organizations, the agencies. You need to do that at a really grassroots level. You need to talk to the people that are impacted by the programs that you try to put in place," Brown says. "We can guess, as professionals, all we want about what it is that people need. But if we don't ask them, we are not going to be successful."

CHIP monitors the health, environmental, social and economic needs of people of all ages. Working on a shoestring budget and with a lot of volunteers and community support, the AHA says that the program "has successfully established a federally qualified oral healthcare center, provided automated external defibrillators in public venues and established an open door clinic that offers free medical and mental healthcare. 

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