Advocate Health: Taking Aim at Social Drivers of Health and Access to Care – FOR ALL

by savoystaff

The new Advocate Health is – at its core – committed to being a force for meaningful social impact and change. Together, we are advancing the health and well-being of communities in the six states in which we operate by improving access to health care, addressing the social drivers of health and advancing health equity.

Advocate Health’s 150,000 teammates serve nearly 6 million patients annually – making it the fifth largest nonprofit, integrated health system in the nation. With that scale comes even greater opportunity to improve the lives of patients, teammates and community members.

At the center of our mission is our commitment to dismantling the root causes of inequity, moving into communities to fuel economic mobility, improve affordable housing options, enhance food security and expand access to job opportunities.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw disparities in testing and vaccination and immediately acted, working hand-in-hand with our community partners. I’m proud of our collective efforts, which resulted in the vaccination of nearly 1 million community members.

We have also drawn on data to better understand disparities and target our interventions most effectively. For example, we have taken a close look at our cancer and diabetes screenings in Black and brown communities who are historically over-diagnosed, yet under-screened to figure out meaningful solutions. At the height of the pandemic, we used geographic information system) data to understand how disparities were playing out at the ZIP code, census tract and street levels and brought tests and vaccines in a highly targeted way to communities that needed it most.

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Atrium Health makes up the Southeast region of Advocate Health. Together, the enterprise is working to address housing instability and homelessness, collaborating through public-private partnerships and working with community partners to provide wraparound services for those experiencing homelessness. To date, Atrium Health’s investments provided more than 1,000 affordable housing units serving over 2,000 residents.

Another key aspect of our work is ensuring food access for families across all the communities in which the health system operates. Through a network of strong community partnerships, Atrium Health provides screenings, access to mobile food pantries and external resources to strengthen food security across the communities we serve. In 2022, breakfasts and lunches were prepared in Atrium Health facility kitchens during the summer months, then boxed and distributed by teammate volunteers resulting in over 16,000 meals served.

Atrium Health also provides school-based and community based virtual care to improve access to health care services in schools and community settings. Providing care to students in their schools helps expand access and keep young people in school, while reducing the burden on parents who might otherwise need to miss work.  To date, we have treated more than 8,000 patients across 97 schools, and 48% of visits resulted in kids staying at school, with an estimated 30% reduction in avoidable emergency room visits.

Despite challenging financial headwinds, Advocate Health is undeterred in our commitment to each community we are privileged to serve, while working within and beyond our walls to dismantle the root causes of inequity and injustice, bringing health, hope and healing for all.  Our work was vitally important when we faced an unprecedented pandemic with devastating and disproportional impacts on communities where everyone can thrive. As an organization with an even larger footprint and platform, we will continue to transform our communities for the better-and for all.

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