Healthcare and the community are often seen as separate entities – different places, different people, different systems – but to a patient or recipient of healthcare, they are one in the same. Healthcare is the community and the community is part of healthcare, and in order to build healthy populations, the intersections that exist between the two must be connected.  

These intersections can be found in numerous ways. Consider an individual in the community who is often engaging with law enforcement, struggling with homelessness, and presenting to a local hospital with a high-risk pregnancy, diabetes, cancer, or substance use disorder; Or consider a child placed in foster care who presents to their pediatrician with post-traumatic stress disorder or malnutrition.  

These individuals are being touched by stakeholders in many different areas of healthcare and the community – from clinicians to law enforcement to child protective agencies – and therefore the treatment, resources, and support provided to them must be aligned. Creating healthy populations can only be done by viewing people holistically and acknowledging the connection between the various aspects of an individual’s life. 

Taking the steps to implement a holistic approach to population health can be overwhelming, even if the intersections between healthcare and the community are fully understood. Where and how do communities start? At Cordata, we believe that change must be implemented bottom-up as well as top-down. In a top-down approach, policies are developed to resolve an issue, such as prescription drug monitoring systems as a response to the opioid epidemic. Although these policies are critical, the problem will remain unsolved until a bottom-up approach is simultaneously taken to help change behavior.  

Changing behavior is no easy task and a well-known challenge when attempting to improve the health, wellbeing, and overall safety of communities. However, building bridges between the intersections of healthcare and community programs will remove barriers for high-risk individuals, inspiring them to seek the treatment and services they need.  

Taking a bottom-up approach can be less daunting by beginning small and growing programs naturally. For communities seeking a solution to address the opioid epidemic, this can mean gathering information on overdose events from law enforcement, and meeting individuals where they are to connect them with the necessary treatment or community resources, such as housing or childcare services. From there, the teams can build co-responder networks that reach out to individuals at high-risk for other factors resulting from the opioid epidemic, such as homelessness or gun violence.  

Slowly, intersections between all community and healthcare programs can become connected, ensuring that all individuals have a chance at a healthy life, no matter what obstacles they are faced with. 

The content of this blog was pulled from a recent Coffee with Coker podcast episode featuring Cam Teems, Sr. Director of Healthcare Business and Dr. Kelly Firesheets, VP of Community Services at Cordata. Listen to the full episode here.