The Surgeon General Connects Community Health and Economic Prosperity
photo by Woldai Wagner on Unsplash
In January 2021, then Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome M. Adams released a new priority called Community Health and Economic Prosperity: Engaging Businesses as Stewards and Stakeholders—A Report of the Surgeon General (CHEP for short). This is the first priority report of its kind because it focuses on community health from an economic standpoint and gives weight to unequal economic opportunities as a driver of personal and community health.
CHEP is significant and encouraging to the healthy communities movement. One of the roles of the U.S. Surgeon General is to provide the country with the best scientific information available on how to improve health, and reports are considered “landmark publications that identify and shape the science and culture of our public health.” Some of them are designated priorities—like the CHEP report—which are presented as critical public health issues.
Having the Surgeon General publicly recognize that the conditions in which we live affect our physical health and that the business community has an important role to play in equitably improving those conditions is an important step forward for the healthy communities movement. “CHEP is the concept that community health and economic prosperity are inextricably linked. When community health is poor, so is community prosperity. We can’t have one without the other,” said Surgeon General Adams.
Learn More About Your Stakeholders
“Stakeholders are all those who participate in a business and are essential to its success—including everyone from employees to suppliers to investors. Valuing the needs and interests of all stakeholders, and avoiding prioritizing one stakeholder at the expense of another, helps ensure success. Society and stakeholders likewise depend on businesses—for jobs, goods and services, and tax revenue and to bring innovations to the market. Paying attention to these interdependencies and delivering value to multiple stakeholders can help a business succeed.”
Before true and meaningful community change can occur, before we can ever get to plans that outline problems and root causes, and present real, tangible solutions and outcomes, dialogue has to underpin the entire process. Without dialogue, the most vulnerable and underserved voices get lost in the shuffle or completely overlooked. But with dialogue, the pathway to well-being for all becomes possible. Read more
Thriving Together: A Springboard for Equitable Recovery and Resilience in Communities Across America p.251
Foster a Culture of Stewardship
"System stewardship is the role of enterprises and organizations in solving problems that government alone cannot solve. The U.S. health disadvantage is such a problem, with roots in community conditions, inequality, and opportunity gaps. Stewards of systems will address these causes at a systems level: policy, taxation, investment, education, environment, healthcare, and more." -CHEP full report p.155
"Businesses that engage in this kind of stewardship, using data to identify the people and places to engage, the best interventions to deploy, and the sharpest measures to assess impact, have the opportunity to be leaders and influencers improving the health of employees, families, and communities and influencing broader societal conditions in a community, region, and whole country." -CHEP full report p.124
Stewardship is defined as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” When applied to the collective work to advance healthy, equitable, sustainable communities, the concept describes leaders—businesses, people, and organizations—who take responsibility for forming working relationships to drive transformative change in regions and communities. Importantly, stewards within the context of our work to improve communities must have a vested interest in promoting an equity orientation in regard to purpose, power, and wealth.
We typically see stewardship having the greatest impact as a mechanism for shared responsibility and collective action; when the work has expanded, aligned breadth and depth, and in turn, expanded reach and impact. Read more
Thriving Together: A Springboard for Equitable Recovery and Resilience in Communities Across America p.9
Develop Strategic Cross-Section Partnerships
“Because no single sector can realize this vision in isolation, the transformation requires investments and partnerships across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Nationwide, this transformative work of aligning financial resources from across organizations to address unmet vital conditions is already underway through the field of “community development.” Actors working in this field are essential partners for businesses seeking to engage with and invest in communities.” —CHEP full report p.62
Anchor institutions are entities that are important, long-term fixtures in a community and take some responsibility for that community's successful development. They may be non-profit organizations—such as universities, hospitals, and school systems—and can also be large corporations, government centers, military bases, or sports teams.
We should care about anchor institutions and their role in health because of the power and responsibility they carry. Anchors control large amounts of community capital and can influence the kind of employment options available, what medical care benefits are provided, or the reach of public transportation.
The concept of anchor institutions has been around for over a decade, but the idea of what it truly means to be a strong anchor in a community and the development of a driving anchor mission is new to many organizations. A growing number of successful anchors with proven methods and missions are emerging in the field and offer tools to help others realize their level of influence and responsibility. Read more
Thriving Together: A Springboard for Equitable Recovery and Resilience in Communities Across America p.178
Measure Performance Using Meaningful Indicators
“ Data-driven approaches offer businesses and employers a pathway to make broader improvements and measure their contributions to that improvement, while understanding their current engagement in the context of an even larger ecosystem of communities and society." —CHEP full report p.124
"Businesses use data for their operations but often overlook the use of data to understand the impact of their business on the health, wealth, and well-being of employees, customers, and communities. A data-driven approach to community engagement and investment can help businesses identify strategies that (a) create a healthier workforce and more prosperous communities and (b) monitor their progress in achieving specific outcomes; and Offers businesses and employers a pathway to make broader improvements and measure their contributions and returns in the context of the larger ecosystem of communities and society." —CHEP full report p.115
There are a few important things to consider when implementing an effective measurement systemthat can make a big difference:
- Develop and agree upon a measurement framework upfront. Creating a simple list of indicators and how the indicators work together to address health needs can be a game changer.
- Build a flexible framework that allows partners to track unique measures that their work is likely to address. Although it’s important to agree upon a framework upfront, that doesn’t mean there can’t be differences in what each partner tracks.
- Make it easy for partners to contribute their data through your measurement tool/process. Consistent, timely data upload should be part of the agreed-upon measurement system, and it should be intuitive and simple for partners to do.
- Data reports should be digestible and visible to all partners to see how the work is going and how they can adjust programming to improve outcomes. Read more