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Improving health outcomes through community partnerships

Image via Unsplash.

By Guest Columnist MICHAEL MINOR, Georgia Health Plan Chief Executive Officer at UnitedHealthcare Community & State

Our health is influenced by more than just the care that we receive. In fact, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, medical care only makes up 20 percent of our health influences. The other 80 percent consists 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 – the things often beyond our control that impact our everyday lives. Families and individuals in underserved communities have greater difficulties accessing things like housing, well-paying jobs, education, access to nutritious food and healthcare. These factors can have a negative impact on health outcomes community wide.

Michael Minor is the Georgia Health Plan Chief Executive Officer at UnitedHealthcare Community & State.

There has been growing recognition within the healthcare field to address factors of health outside of the doctor’s office. While government policy and redistribution of resources are critical to addressing health inequity, community involvement also plays a vital role. Community-based organizations have an intimate understanding of their community’s unique needs and challenges and have closer relationships with the families and individuals within them.

Utilizing the expertise of community leaders on the ground is vital for a large, national organization to appropriately address the needs of the communities it serves. That’s why UnitedHealthcare is partnering with nonprofits in Georgia focused on bettering the health of every Georgian, whether they be a teen struggling with mental health issues in Atlanta, or a senior citizen in need of better healthcare resources in rural Dougherty county.

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

The selected organizations 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 early care and education programs.
  • Open Hand Atlanta/Barnes Healthcare, South Georgia – $220,000 to expand Cooking Matters for Healthcare Providers, providing medically tailored meals and nutrition intervention for at-risk individuals; and the Community Health Worker program, serving underserved and uninsured individuals with healthy lifestyle intervention and connections to social determinant 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 embedded health equity practices.
  • Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta – $75,000 to address social isolation of older adults 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 the health outcomes of Georgian across the state, whether it’s through mental health education, nutritious food or health resources. Identifying the right community partners is the first step toward bettering health equity in Georgia.


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