A message from Sally Kraft, MD, Vice President, Population Health:
“Population Health” is a big idea, and it’s gaining interest across the country. It is both a goal and a strategy. We aspire to improve the health of our patients and our communities by aligning innovations in health care and improvements in our socio-economic and physical environments.
As health outcomes and life expectancy in the United States continue to erode and health care costs continue to rise, it is becoming increasingly clear that the traditional health care model alone is not adequate to meet the needs of our population. Many large institutions—hospitals, insurance companies, employers and government agencies—are looking for other solutions, including programs that use preventive strategies to improve community health.
I am proud to work alongside the talented members of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Population Health team as we create and implement programs to support and improve the health and well-being of our employees, our patients and the communities we serve. Our team works within the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system (which includes five hospitals and a visiting nurse and hospice organization) and in the community to facilitate prevention strategies, improve the delivery of health care services, offer support through strategic community partnerships and make investments — all with the goal of keeping the population we serve healthy.
Using the Community Health Needs Assessment (CNA), our team identifies key public health needs and works across academic, administrative, health system and community boundaries to fulfill those needs. In addition to improving the health of our population, our goals are to:
- Improve the experience of our patients and their caregivers
- Decrease the cost of health care
- Restore the joy of work in the health care field
- Partner with the community to change conditions and behaviors that impact health
- Generate, disseminate and apply knowledge and skills
Our programs are developed in response to input from the community, patients and caregivers, and include initiatives directed toward employee health and wellness, healthy aging, mental health, substance use disorders and community outreach.
Health outcomes are driven by so much more than just medical care. The Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) Population Health team has been leading an effort to understand what factors prevent our patients from achieving the best health they can attain. Working with many teams in the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system, we have been asking patients about the social determinants of health needs (transportation, access to healthy foods, safe housing, etc.) that prevent them from being as healthy as they can be. We have developed the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Community Health Worker program to help patients meet the non-clinical needs that impact their health, and we have invested in community organizations that are dedicated to improving these conditions for everyone in our region.
As an “anchor” institution, D-H can have a significant impact on these social determinants of health through our business and non-clinical practices—as an employer, investor and purchaser of goods and services. And as an academic health system serving a largely rural population, our anchor status is especially critical for our catchment area. This new model offers D-H an opportunity to think differently about our role in the community and the tools we have available to affect change.
As we look toward the future, it is clear that a comprehensive approach to population health is essential to improving the lives of the people we serve. We look forward to meeting the challenge.
Sally Kraft, MD, MPH
Vice President of Population Health
Population Health teams
Our population health teams work with our health system and communities. The following sections highlight some of the work done by our population health teams across the system: