The Importance of Community Health

Supporting good health and ensuring quality health care extends far beyond hospital and doctor care. In fact, experts tell us that 80 percent of health is driven by socio-economic factors, health behaviors and environmental factors. In other words, health care is only 20 percent of the health equation. The Alliance of Community Health Plans – an organization of 23 locally-based health plans around the country – is deeply committed to the health of the communities its members serve. Community health is central to these health plans’ mission and culture.

ACHP recently profiled six of our member plans on their community health initiatives. All six of the plans have partnered with local organizations to address needs specific to their communities, whether that be providing healthy food options or offering parenting advice.

CareOregon developed its Food Rx program after realizing that some of its members struggle to feed their families. The plan now partners with local organizations that provide food assistance to Medicaid populations to provide food vouchers for patients in need. CareOregon also focuses on building trust between physicians and patients to enable members to discuss dietary needs and concerns.

Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan (CDPHP), Independent Health Foundation and Kaiser Permanente each run locally based initiatives improving community health. CDPHP’s Healthy Living Center, Independent Health’s Good for the Neighborhood movement and Kaiser Permanente’s Healthy Eating Active Living campaign offer members guidance and resources that help individuals and families implement healthy behaviors and better understand both their health and health care coverage.

Security Health Plan and UCare collaborate with local organizations to provide patients with straightforward, relevant information. Security Health Plan’s guide book, What to Do When Your Child Gets Sick, helps new parents know when to take their children to a health care provider. And each year, UCare hosts its Senior Legal Fair, a multi-cultural and multi-lingual event providing legal advice to low-income seniors. At the Senior Legal Fair, more than 60 private, corporate, legal aid and government lawyers offer seniors one-on-one consultations on topics ranging from nursing homes to Social Security.

ACHP recently hosted a Twitter chat on community health. With 31 participants and more than 350 tweets, it provided a dynamic forum for a nuanced discussion on community health narratives, challenges and the future. Participants considered the responsibility of health care organizations in fostering community health, methods improving collaboration between local organizations, examples of successful community health programs in the works and various ways organizations can measure their success in addressing community health.

In our ongoing commitment to improving health and the health of communities, ACHP will continue to add new profiles to our website. These outstanding models for promoting health are part of an ongoing larger project called Total Health Drivers, a comprehensive approach considering the role of clinical health care, healthy behaviors and socioeconomic and environmental factors in each individual’s overall health.

By chronicling diverse narratives in our profiles and sparking conversations – in communities, among individuals, and across social media – ACHP aims to promote collaboration and innovation. Good health does not begin with patients – it begins with families, friends and communities.


-Patricia Smith
ACHP President and CEO