As our country slowly emerges from the ravages of a global pandemic, the impacts of systemic racism and wide economic disparity on the health and well-being of individuals and communities have never been clearer. While these events have brought health and health care disparities into sharp focus for the media and public - they are anything but new.
For decades, research and practice alike have clearly established that Social Determinants of Health (factors such as education, employment, food security, housing, social isolation, and transportation) contribute significantly to health outcomes - often more than medical care (figure 1.)
Furthermore, research affirms that systemic discrimination based on race, gender, social class, etc. exacerbates health disparities by compounding the adverse effects of chronic stress experienced disproportionately by communities of color.
Consequently, it is widely accepted that “the health care industry's ability to address SDOH in partnership with individuals and their communities is key to improving population health”.
An Investment in Community
In September 2020, Health Share invested in Connect Oregon - a network of health and social care providers serving Oregon and Southwest Washington leveraging the Unite Us platform – a virtual tool that helps health care providers and community-based organizations (CBOs) partner to meet the needs of individuals they both serve. CBOs and health partners that join the network can securely send and receive electronic referrals and track outcomes to coordinate care.
Statewide, Connect Oregon has served over 8000 people, generating over 14,000 service cases. Launched in the metro area in Fall 2020, the regional Connect Oregon network has grown to over 165 CBOs, and Health Share’s healthcare partners will all be live on the platform by the end of 2021.
"A care manager working with a single mother with a high-risk pregnancy and young child referred her to a meal delivery program around noon on Friday. By 10 am on Monday they had accepted the referral. The next day they connected with her a placed a referral for a food box, requesting extra fresh fruits and vegetables included. The case was closed one week later, with the note that the member was set up to receive weekly deliveries." - A Connect Oregon Success Story
As we look ahead to 2022, our focus will shift to growing and strengthening the network as we learn more about the challenges and opportunities it creates. This growth must be built on genuine relationships with the communities we serve – including meaningful investment in partnership with CBOs - to grow shared capacity for collaboration and tackle health equity head on.
Health Share’s investment in Connect Oregon serves as a down payment on its commitment to health equity by increasing access to critical services to meet our members’ needs. It is a vital step in a longer process of building a thriving coordinated care network, rooted in foundational work to center equity, heal the impacts of historical injustices, and cultivate trusting relationships with community.
For more information, visit https://oregon.uniteus.com/