Improving health outcomes through community partnerships – SaportaReport

By guest columnist MICHAEL MINORCEO of Georgia Health Plan at UnitedHealthcare

Our health is influenced by more than the care we receive. In fact, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, medical care accounts for only 20% of our influences on health. The other 80% is made up of external social and economic factors such as where we live and work, education, employment, and even our race. These are defined as social determinants of health – things often beyond our control that impact our daily lives. Families and individuals in underserved communities have more difficulty accessing things like housing, well-paying jobs, education, access to nutritious food and health care. These factors can negatively impact community-wide health outcomes.

Michael Minor is the CEO of the Georgia Health Plan at UnitedHealthcare.

There has been growing recognition in the healthcare field for addressing health factors outside of the doctor’s office. While government policy and resource redistribution are key to addressing health inequities, community engagement also plays a vital role. Community organizations have an intimate understanding of the unique needs and challenges of their community and have closer relationships with the families and individuals within them.

Using the expertise of community leaders on the ground is essential for a large national organization to respond appropriately to the needs of the communities it serves. That’s why UnitedHealthcare partners with nonprofits in Georgia focused on improving the health of every Georgian, whether it’s a teen struggling with mental health issues in Atlanta or of a senior in need of better health care resources in rural Dougherty County.

Each year, UnitedHealthcare supports nonprofit organizations across the country in their work to provide care to local communities through the Empowering Health program. The program represents the company’s commitment to addressing health inequities and supports initiatives to expand access to health services and address the social determinants of health. This year, UnitedHealthcare awarded six Georgia nonprofits a total of $1 million in grants.

The organizations selected were:

  • Voices for Georgia’s Children, statewide – $300,000 to expand the Free Your Feels mental health awareness campaign for children, teens and young adults, and pilot health managers in care programs and early education.
  • Open Hand Atlanta/Barnes Healthcare, South Georgia – $220,000 to expand Cooking Matters for Healthcare Providers, providing medically appropriate meals and nutritional intervention to those at risk; and the Community Health Worker program, serving the underserved and uninsured with healthy lifestyle intervention and links to the social determinants of health resources.
  • Pace Center for Girls, Macon – $160,000 to expand Reach Program services, providing mental and behavioral health counseling to girls ages 11-17 and their families.
  • Sowega Council on Aging, South Georgia – $150,000 to deploy social isolation solutions through the Senior Center Without Walls program.
  • Partnership for Southern Equity, statewide – $95,000 to support the Just Health Academy by providing health equity training to health organizations and personnel and technical assistance to implement practices health equity mainstreaming.
  • Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta – $75,000 to address social isolation among seniors living in affordable housing by providing socialization activities and behavioral health coaching.

Support through the Empowering Health Grants will allow these organizations to continue their work at the community level and, in doing so, improve health outcomes for Georgians across the state, whether through health education mental health, nutritious food or health resources. Identifying the right community partners is the first step toward improving health equity in Georgia.

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