Henry Ford Health System joins 15 healthcare organizations nationwide in groundbreaking commitment

Health care systems play a key role in patients’ health, but there’s more to achieving long-term well-being than procedures and prescriptions. With its recent commitment to join the Healthcare Anchor Network’s 2020 Leadership Agenda, Henry Ford Health System is “doubling down” and broadening its efforts to address economic and social conditions that can result in poor health outcomes.

This past August, Henry Ford was one of 15 Healthcare Anchor Network (HAN) members to sign the commitment at a convening of 36 health systems from around the country. The agenda calls for healthcare systems to leverage their assets to bring more diversity, local and inclusive hiring, and community investments to their respective communities.

The agreement follows a movement in recent years among hospitals to go beyond their walls to address community health. Hospitals are economic anchors in the community, employing more than 5.7 million people a year and purchasing over $850 billion in goods and services from other businesses, according to the American Hospital Association. HFHS employs more than 31,600 people across the health system, and purchases approximately $1.5 billion in goods and services annually.

Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom is Henry Ford Health System's senior vice president of community health and equity and chief wellness and diversity officer.

As health care leaders, HFHS is in a unique position “to play an active role in ensuring that communities are equitable and sustainable,” says Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, the health system’s senior vice president of community health and equity and chief wellness and diversity officer.

HFHS “can contribute to the health of communities and families to thrive,” Wisdom adds.

The agreement “is a journey, a step forward to help healthcare systems. We want healthcare systems to be constructive partners,” says David Zuckerman, director for healthcare engagement with The Democracy Collaborative who leads the coordination of Healthcare Anchor Network.

By being a part of the collaborative health-system led effort, “we're learning from each other and, and borrowing from each other's playbook and enabling us to accelerate our efforts locally,” Wisdom says.

HAN was established in 2017 with Henry Ford being one of the 11 co-founders, to build and strengthen equitable, local economies. A year prior to the establishment, Zuckerman says roughly 40 healthcare system leaders discussed concerns of inequity in their respective communities and how to serve as an anchor in the community.

As a longtime NW Goldberg resident, Yusef Shakur hopes to see more collaboration and engagement that will strengthen the relationship between Henry Ford and the neighborhood, which has been hit hard by blight and disinvestment over the years.

“Change starts from the bottom (with the local people),” Shakur says. “That’s how you create equity. That’s how you create diversity.”

In the area of workforce development, HFHS has several initiatives that engage community partners to help Detroiters secure jobs. In the city, the unemployment rate was 6.5% in July, higher than the national average, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. HFHS partners with community organizations, including the West Grand Boulevard Collaborative through job fairs, interview blitzes and employment readiness programs such as appropriate outfits for an interview in healthcare, interview preparation, and resume writing.

Under the commitment, HFHS aims to provide candidates from community partners the opportunity to qualify for two apprenticeship programs, and if eligible, the candidates will minimally account for 10%-20% of program participants.

”What we've tried to do and continue to try to do is reduce barriers and provide opportunities for our residents in the city of Detroit, not only to find a job, but to also create a career path,” says Jan Harrington-Davis, vice president of talent acquisition, workforce diversity, and workforce solutions at HFHS.

Jan Harrington-Davis is vice president of talent acquisition, workforce diversity, and workforce solutions at HFHS.

A few years ago, HFHS set a goal “to hire from within our community,” targeting ZIP codes 48206, 48208, 48201 and 48202 around the hospital, she says. According to HFHS, more than 150 employees hired in 2017 and 2018 lived in the targeted ZIP codes.

Under the commitment, the goal is to increase the number of total employees at Henry Ford Hospital from the targeted ZIP codes from the current baseline of 3% to 5%. The health system aims to achieve an annual average of 10% of all new hires for entry-level positions at Henry Ford Hospital (most people don’t know us by Detroit campus) are Detroit residents, up from the current baseline of 7%.

“We recognize that our employee population needs to be representative of the community that we serve. We absolutely see the value in diversity and not only by way of race or gender but most importantly diversity of thought,” Harrington-Davis says, adding, “That's what all of our goals are set around, to try and be inclusive as possible and less exclusive.”

In addition to local hiring, HFHS is finalizing commitments in other strategic areas, including impact purchasing through local and inclusive contracting of diverse suppliers. HFHS is also establishing an annual goal of boosting its diverse supplier spending in the coming years.

Another facet of the commitment is place-based investments, or investments intended to support housing, food insecurity, and other social determinants of health. Although HFHS is in the early planning stages of the finalizing its investment, HAN has asked all members to allocate at least 1 percent or $50 million – depending on individual health systems – from its unrestricted investment fund.

Now that HFHS has signed onto this commitment, Wisdom says the health system is “aligning our efforts to be even better and stronger” when it comes to building an equitable and sustainable local economy.

“We're really doubling down our efforts to address this in an even more robust way,” Wisdom says.

The commitment will allow HFHS “to see what’s working in other communities, borrow from them where possible, but also collectively indicate how we’re doing to truly transform communities and community health.”

This article is part of our Equitable Development series, in partnership with Henry Ford Health System, where we explore neighborhood progress and impact of Henry Ford Health System and community partners. Stories illustrate growing an inclusive Detroit in a way that allows people from all races, classes, and abilities to participate and benefit.

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