- Swedish strengthens local communities through its Community Health Investment.
- Last year’s community investment helped address concerns such as housing and homelessness, food insecurity, substance abuse and mental health.
- Kelly Guy, regional director of Community Health Investment at Swedish, talks about how this support is changing lives in the greater Seattle area.
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Communities aren’t just physical locations or GPS coordinates. They are the places we feel most at home, whether in an apartment complex, at the barbershop, or in our schools and senior centers. Communities provide encouragement, a place of refuge, a warm welcome and connections with people who care for each other physically, emotionally and spiritually.
When communities face challenges, like the ones we’ve experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, additional support from local organizations can make all the difference. That’s one reason that Swedish conducts a Community Health Needs Assessment every three years. It helps us prioritize where we can have the greatest impact on people's lives.
Kelly Guy, regional director of Community Health Investment at Swedish, plays a vital role in this work. She and her team connect with community partners that can help bring critical services to the people who need them most. We talked to Kelly about how these partnerships are changing lives.
What areas of need does the Swedish Community Benefit Program address?
Our last Community Health Needs Assessment identified six areas of need that Swedish has been addressing, including:
- Housing and homelessness
- Food insecurity
- Mental health
- Diabetes and obesity
- Back and joint pain
- Drug use and substance abuse
The Swedish community health investment team works with each campus to connect with local organizations that are making an impact in the community.
Last year alone, Swedish invested $258 million in community benefit programs. The community health investment team works with each campus to connect with local organizations that are making an impact in the community. We partnered with about 90 local organizations in 2020 through grants and outreach events. A lot of that work happens through our primary care and specialty care clinics located in the communities we serve.
Why does Swedish take a partnership approach to serving the community?
We believe there is power in numbers — no one organization can do it all. A partnership approach is essential to outreach and education efforts. It allows us to share resources and ideas and develop efficient, effective solutions together.
You’re new to Swedish. When did you become interested in community partnerships?
Before coming to Swedish, I was a branch executive for the YMCA of Greater Seattle in Kent. I live in Kent, and it’s an area of great need. A few years ago, a local hospital sponsored a flu vaccine clinic at the YMCA. That got me thinking about the importance of how health care organizations and community groups can address health disparities and meet needs where people live and work.
What personal experiences have underscored your interest in addressing health disparities?
My best friend from childhood, who is also a woman of color, had undiagnosed kidney disease from the time we were in grade school until she went on dialysis in her early 20s. All that time, doctors told her she just had allergies and never really looked into why she was sick. When doctors put her on the transplant list, I started going with her to all her medical appointments. Her doctor told me that we need more people of color to bring advocates with them. I agree! Community partnerships are a way to multiply that effect through outreach, education and programming.
Community partnerships are a way to multiply that effect through outreach, education and programming.
Thankfully, my friend got a new kidney 16 years ago and is doing well. I don’t know why she received such poor care as a child, whether it was because of her color or something else. But everyone deserves to receive good medical care and have the best health possible.
What are some examples of community partnerships that are making an impact in our region?
There are so many to choose from, but I’ll give a few examples. Swedish is working with the American Diabetes Association to support local programming and initiatives. These include funding the ADA Imagine Camp for kids with Type 1 diabetes, supporting prevention initiatives to curb childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children, and getting the word out about the ADA’s 7-question Diabetes Risk Test.
We also support Friends of Youth, which provides a continuum of critical services for homeless youth and young adults ages 11 to 24. Friends of Youth helps clients find stable housing, receive counseling and get access to food, supplies and resources they need to move from crisis to safety, stability and success.
Another example is Entre Hermanos, which promotes the health and well-being of Seattle’s Latinx LGBTQIA+ community. We help fund rapid HIV testing efforts, peer education and case management. One goal of our partnership is to ensure clients enroll in the state’s HIV insurance program, understand their medicine and treatment schedule and follow their treatment plan.
How will Swedish continue to support communities in the years to come?
We are excited to see what themes emerge from the next Community Health Needs Assessment, which is underway. That report will guide our priorities for the next three years. Whatever the future holds, I’m optimistic because when people come together to address inequities and reduce barriers to care in our community, we can achieve great things.
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