HealthPartners knows clinical care. They also know it isn’t enough.

Good leaders transform their limitations into strengths.

Clinical care accounts for just 20 percent of a person’s health. The rest is a result of behavior, socioeconomic factors and the physical environment, according to a model developed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

ACHP member plan HealthPartners is a leader in health care delivery. HealthPartners does not employ teachers or policemen; it cannot directly influence schools or neighborhoods. Instead, the Minneapolis-based care organization built what they call a community business model, “a type of multisectoral partnership that involves actors that are seldom accustomed to working together and not always aware of how their actions affect population health.”

Profiled in the most recent issue of Health Affairs, HealthPartners has formally adjusted business practices to prioritize community initiatives:

The long-standing management axiom, “You do what you measure,” applied directly to this effort. Requiring leaders to measure progress on goals related to improving the physical environment, social and economic conditions, and health-related behaviors has compelled HealthPartners’ leaders and staff to invest more time, energy, and money addressing those factors.
The report describes four specific efforts: promoting healthy eating in schools, reducing the stigma of mental illness, improving end-of-life decision making and strengthening an inner-city neighborhood. One of the efforts is the yumPower School Challenge to confront childhood obesity:

Schools voluntarily participated and “competed” for $500 cash incentives that could be used for health and wellness promotion. Front-line teachers made sure that students updated their trackers daily. Radio Disney helped ensure that the nutrition-oriented messaging was compelling to adolescents – an audience it knows well. HealthPartners also created parent and teacher toolkits to augment the tracking activity.

During the 2011-12 school year, about three-fourths (76 percent) of students voluntarily tracked their fruit and vegetable intake in the yumPower School Challenge, and students’ fruit and vegetable consumption increased by 11 percent.

The report challenges other care organizations to adopt similar business models and policymakers to consider creating incentives to do so. Good leaders know when teamwork is more powerful than acting alone.

– Sophie Schwadron
  ACHP Intern