Women’s health is about much more than health care, so driving better outcomes needs to involve more than hospitals and other traditional care settings. That’s a core idea behind community-based health, or the delivery of medical care and education in community settings.
Decades of research have shown that community-based care can be an effective, sustainable approach to mitigating the negative effects of social factors (like food security, housing, transportation, safety and education) that can heavily influence health outcomes. And it’s a powerful means by which to reach people who might not otherwise seek or access care — a crucial tool for health engagement, considering that just 55 percent of privately insured individuals report a regular, office-based source of care.1 Rather than simply react when individuals seek out care for acute issues, proactively engaging them where they are at may be able to prevent some of those health issues from even happening.
Public health officials and policy experts have long leveraged the power of community-based health to drive changes in population-level outcomes. But as the pandemic and social justice movements of the past two years bring a new and necessary focus to health inequities, employers, health payers and providers are putting more muscle behind the push for community-based solutions.
As a 2021 Deloitte report on health equity points out, “more and more health plans and health systems are bridging health and social services to address drivers of health through technology-enabled referral networks with local community organizations.”2 Health plans are also a source of critically needed funds for such programs. In 2021, for instance, Optum awarded $1.4 million in grants to community organizations focused on maternal health outcomes.3
“It’s no longer about proving the model,” said Patrick Conway, MD, CEO of Care Solutions at Optum, at a discussion on the future of community-based health. “It’s about how we scale a model that cares for people’s physical, mental, and social needs for everyone across America from the low acuity to the highest complexity. And how we manage health equity, better health outcomes, and a lower cost of care system that centers on individuals and families in their homes and communities.”