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The Future of the Public’s Health in the 21st Century
new and have gained increased recognition for the value they bring to health care operations, their potential for enhancing provider accountability (VHA and HRET, 2000), the knowledge and empowerment they help to create in communities, and their potential for promoting health.
The recent trend among universities to assess their level of involvement in their communities and to develop programs focused on “service learning,” and such public service oriented academic work includes AHCs. Calleson and colleagues (2002) surveyed the executives and staff of eight AHCs around the country and found that community–campus partnerships can strengthen the traditional mission of AHCs. The involvement of AHCs in the communities is also likely to increase in the coming years. The AHCs surveyed listed several factors that facilitated the development of relationships with communities and community organizations, including the request of the communities themselves and the growing population health orientation of the health care sector. Furthermore, non-academic community health centers also frequently have close ties to their communities, collaborating to assess local health needs, providing needed services, and supporting community efforts with research expertise and technical assistance in planning and evaluation. Many hospitals participate in broad community-based efforts to achieve some of the conditions necessary for health, for instance, collaborating with community development corporations to contribute financial, human, and technical resources (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2002). Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York, for example, has partnered with a local nonprofit organization to develop low- and moderate-income housing and to establish a neighborhood kindergarten (Seedco and N-PAC, 2002). Additionally, Montefiore Medical Center partners with local high schools to develop health care professions education programs intended to create new career options and improve the likelihood inner-city youth will stay in school (Montefiore Medical Center, 2001). Hospitals are also employers, and in the case of two Lawndale, Illinois, hospitals, collaboration with the local development corporation and other neighborhood organizations in 1999 made affordable local housing available to employees, helping to facilitate community development (University of Illinois, 1999). In Providence, Rhode Island, a community partnership of nonprofit and independent hospitals and colleges works to improve children’s quality of life by providing school-based health services, innovative and enhanced education through teacher and staff training, and support to improve home environments through housing advocacy (Health & Education Leadership for Providence, 2001; Providence Public School District, 2002).
Many hospitals and health care systems have seen the value of going beyond the needs of the individuals who enter the health care system to engage in broader community health action, even within the constraints of