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Make Population Health A Brand Strategy To Capture Multicultural Consumers And Improve Outcomes
Leaders and their businesses will be hearing more and more about “Population Health” in the immediate future as it applies to the health of the public as a whole and as a brand strategy to solve for inequities in the workplace and marketplace. In fact, there are Population Health executives at Fortune 500 companies who are responsible for managing the healthcare, wellness, work-life balance and other related needs of their employees and addressing similar needs in their businesses’ consumer base. Simply put, companies are learning that well-being (healthy minds, bodies, and careers) amongst employees and customers is essential to sustained success in all part of their business – especially when it comes to multicultural engagement and career advancement.
Right now, of course, “Population Health” (defined by Improving Population Health as “the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group”) is a more common term amongst businesses that are directly connected to healthcare. But those businesses’ efforts not only show the potential benefits of this approach and the opportunities it presents but also reveal disconnects that prevent Population Health from realizing its potential as a brand strategy: It lacks a cohesive approach to leverage the collective strengths and resources of external partners. In addition, they often fail to deliver culturally sensitive solutions that can measure behavior changes in the two most pressing areas:
- Teaching multicultural populations to serve as healthy-living advocates for preventive care
- Guiding those populations to pursue careers in healthcare so they can play a more influential role in the industry and improve how their communities are served
This is how a focus on Population Health will support the right business models to best serve the populations of what I have coined the cultural demographic shift, which will represent the new mainstream in America by 2050. Support of them will make us all better equipped and prepared to serve healthcare patients the world over (whether they are our customers, employees or families) and make organizations smarter and more operationally and cost efficient about healthcare delivery – providing better outcomes and saving more lives in the process.
Why? Because it will address a key change that the shift has brought to 21st-century business as a whole: it less about the business defining the individual and much more about the individual defining the business.
You can see this transition happening already in the healthcare industry, where the traditional physician-led business model is giving way to a new patient-centric one. Nowhere is this more prevalent than retail healthcare.
For example, since 2006, CVS Health has held “Project Health” events at its pharmacies, which offer free screenings and health services to underserved communities and uninsured in cities across the U.S. These events bring access to healthcare directly into multicultural communities – primarily Hispanic and African-American populations which carry the heaviest burden of healthcare disparities and the biggest risk of chronic disease going unchecked. The events help people to know their numbers and how to take preventative action if necessary; they also provide information about the Affordable Care Act and insurance options. Since its inception, Project Health has delivered more than $75 million worth of free health care services to nearly 760,000 people, increasing access while decreasing the cost barrier to important preventive services and screenings in multicultural markets.
Walgreens offers “Take Care Health,” evidence-based care programs from wellness to disease management for the overall health, preventive care, risk reduction and positive behavior change of its employees. According to Jim Graham, Senior Manager of Media Relations, “For populations that have been traditionally underserved, we have even greater proximity. More than 75% of African Americans and Latinos lives within 3 miles of a Walgreens store. More than half of our stores serve medically underserved areas of the United States. As a result of our geographic reach, we often become the healthcare provider of first choice when a resident of an underserved community is in need.”
Walgreens is also at the forefront of providing more care options for the people near their stores, such as adding more than 400 Healthcare Clinics in its stores, staffed by nurse practitioners and offering a wide range of services, and expanding the role of pharmacists, such as flu shots and other vaccinations given by pharmacists, something unavailable just a few years ago. This, Graham says “is part of a significant initiative to make our pharmacists more accessible as trusted health advisors, both geographically and in the patient experience.”
In 2015, Walmart launched extended-care centers: independent walk-in clinics at selected stores offering affordable healthcare services and treatment to both customers and employees. Services range from wellness and preventive care to primary acute care and management of chronic diseases. They also provide lab tests, immunizations, and referrals to specialists. For its role in improving access to healthcare and making it less costly for people to seek treatment and preventive care, Walmart was named Pharmacy Innovator of the Year 2015 by Chain Drug Review.
And at Target, the focus of Population Health is on helping employees become healthier so that they can be more effective in their work, at home, and as stronger contributors to society at large. According to Cara McNulty, Head of Population Health, the question to solve for is, “Do you create the environment for positive behavior to become the norm? We are making advances to create a culture for health and well being. Whether it’s offering an additional 20% employee discount for fruits and vegetables and other healthy food choices, or giving out Fitbits to 335,000 employees to help them overcome barriers to exercise and make healthier living more fun, our goal is to improve the overall culture, where health becomes the environmental norm – and a competitive advantage.”
Even non-healthcare industry players are getting in the game. For example, driven by its users, Facebook is moving into the public health arena. According to Wired, “Everyone on Facebook, all one-billion-plus people, will have an illness at some point in their lives. And that mass of people will share their experience battling disease, ask questions of their friends, and field advice from outsiders. Healthcare professionals can deliver information 24-7 about flu vaccines, the path of epidemics, and essential preventive care. The social network can influence how and when people respond to disease, and how we manage death and dying.”
On the medical institution front, connect the dots and you will find that Population Health goals are most often served through what are known as “community benefit” activities. The Public Health Institute, an organization dedicated to promoting health, well being and quality of life for people around the world, emphasizes five core principles for a community benefit implementation strategy: take care of the most vulnerable populations with unmet health needs; health education and protection; building a seamless continuum of care that provides a safety net of sorts for people; building community capacity with shared responsibility and sustainable efforts; and collaborative governance that gives the community a voice and oversight.
Originally published by Forbes