A Hospital's Role in Strengthening Vulnerable Communities
May 12, 2021 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Many of today's most pressing health issues have their roots in socioeconomic and racial disparities. The COVID-19 pandemic and recurring racial injustices have brought these inequities into stark contrast for the nation, notes Cedars-Sinai President and CEO Thomas M. Priselac in an interview for the Aspen Institute's Ideas: Health conference.
In sharing several examples of Cedars-Sinai's ongoing work to strengthen the health of vulnerable communities, Priselac says that the events of 2020 served as important reminders that there is still much work to be done.
"Cedars-Sinai's work to reduce health inequities occurs not only in the community, but within the organization's walls as well. "We continually examine our own work to make sure that all patients receive the same high quality of care."
In the interview with Rebecca Ruiz, senior features writer at Mashable, Priselac shared his views on the role of a hospital in reducing disparities and highlighted key principles in Cedars-Sinai's community work.
Listen to the community first
Through its comprehensive Community Needs Assessment, as well as frequent discussions with community clinics, social service agencies, community organizations and others, Cedars-Sinai works to understand the needs of the community through the eyes of the people who live there.
Health doesn't exist in a vacuum
Social inequities are at the root of many health disparities. As a result, strengthening a community's health involves looking at a range of factors, not just traditional medical aspects. As an example, Priselac mentioned Cedars-Sinai's "Community Navigators" in the Emergency Department. They focus on building relationships with people experiencing homelessness who come to the Emergency Department and helping them connect with needed services for housing, food, ongoing primary healthcare and substance use programs, if needed.
Strength in partnerships
Cedars-Sinai alone cannot solve these entrenched health issues. Priselac notes the organization's work with a variety of local community partners to determine the most appropriate role for each, identify what resources are needed and develop a shared vision and unified goals. He mentioned Cedars-Sinai's partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District to help at-risk students who have experienced trauma in their lives. The "Share & Care" program uses art therapy to help these students develop positive coping skills.
Priselac emphasized the importance of helping local organizations pilot and build programs that will be sustainable over the long term. He cited Cedars-Sinai's wide-ranging Community Clinic Initiative, which strengthens L.A.'s safety net. The multiyear initiative—based on needs identified by the community clinics—focuses on quality improvement, leadership development, financial strength and data management.
Cedars-Sinai's work to reduce health inequities occurs not only in the community, but within the organization's walls as well. "We continually examine our own work to make sure that all patients receive the same high quality of care," Priselac says.