Improving Community Health to Remedy Inequality 

Today, someone living in our healthiest Twin Cities neighborhoods can expect to live seven years longer than someone who lives in a struggling part of town.

While a number of factors contribute to this difference, Fairview’s community health efforts are working to close this gap through culturally competent programming in underserved neighborhoods throughout the metro area, some of which made the news recently.

“We’re working to improve the health of the broader communities around each of our hospitals,” says Ann Ellison, Fairview’s director of community health and church relations. “And we’re paying attention to those who are most vulnerable and who live in neighborhoods most susceptible to health disparities.”

Health needs beyond health care

Our community health needs assessments help us determine what our neighbors need most, and where our efforts are the most critical. While access to quality health care contributes to quality of life, other factors—household income, education level, unemployment—add far more to the life expectancy disparity based on ZIP code.

“Surprisingly, only about 25 percent of a person’s health is determined by the kind of care we can provide,” says Ann. “As much as 50 percent comes from other social factors.”

A variety of remedies

Fairview works to help close this health care disparity in underserved communities in a number of ways.

  • Fairview operates a drop-in wellness center called Health Commons in two high-need Minneapolis neighborhoods. Residents are provided access to a variety of wellness resources and health education classes. Health Commons saw 2,300 visits annually from 2012-2015.
  • We’ve administered 64,000 free flu shots since 2006 through our MINI Clinics to reach those in under-served neighborhoods. This fall, children could also receive free dental varnish at the clinic.
  • We’re providing free colonoscopies and colon cancer education through the Latino Colon Cancer Prevention Project to serve the Latino community, which has the highest rate of colon cancer and often the lowest rate of screenings.

Since a lack of access to jobs contributes to the disparities, Fairview is also active in workforce development efforts in these communities. Fairview hosts a Scrubs Camp to open the doors to health care careers for middle and high school students and provides internships through the Central Corridor College Fellows Project, a program helping inner-city college students find their first job in health care.

Creating remarkable impact

Partnerships with a variety of organizations already active in these neighborhoods help make Fairview’s community health work possible. The collective impact we’re having is being noticed.

“We’ve reached populations that others have said they can’t reach,” Ann says, “people that are new to this country, or don’t have access to health care in the same way that many of us do. We have a reach into these diverse communities that Fairview can be proud of.”

Ann hopes that this work, and future programs like it, can help close the gaps in health care for good.

“We’ll continue to strive to have high quality care for all, at the bedside and in the community,” Ann says, “so everyone has an equal chance, not just at health care, but at a healthy life.”


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