D-HH in the World

Commitment to Community: the D-H Anchor Strategy

Sarah Currier

“We have a moral and ethical responsibility to support our communities, not simply through random acts of kindness, but by investing in a way that builds vibrant, sustainable, inclusive economies,” says Sarah Currier, vice president, Workforce Strategy.

This commitment to improving social and economic conditions in the communities we serve is D-H's role as an anchor institution (see an explanation of anchor institutions at the end of this article). Currier and Gregory Norman, director, Community Health, explain why and how D-H is investing in the health and economies of communities throughout northern New England.

Can you describe D-H’s anchor strategy?

Currier: The strategy is really about finding a balance of what we need to do to support the social and economic well-being of the communities we serve and rely on, and what we need to do to run a sustainable organization that our community depends on. And being intentional whenever we can to engage locally in our hiring, procurement and investment practices to support both the organization and our communities.

How did D-H’s anchor strategy begin to take shape?

Norman: Three years ago, Sally Kraft, MD, MPH, vice president, Population Health, and Mary Evanofski, vice president of Population Health Management Operations, attended a meeting of the national Healthcare Anchor Network. The conference challenged health systems to expand their view of community health issues by looking at how they can use their business operations, such as hiring, job-training, local purchasing and local investing to improve community conditions for people affected by poverty, discrimination and other social barriers to well-being.

By using our business practices to help community members advance economically, we improve their ability to access care and to get and stay healthy.

In response, D-H’s Population Health Department is bringing together a D-H Healthcare Anchor Leadership team that includes leaders from Human Resources, Supply Chain, Finance, Development, Government Affairs and the Office of the CEO to discuss how D-H can apply health-care anchor concepts to the community health challenges we see.

What are some examples of programs that align with the anchor strategy?

Currier: Human Resources is focused on inclusion and sustainability in hiring across the system. We offer several training opportunities for community members who want a rewarding trade or career without having to go to college and look for ways to help address challenges presented by a lack of public transportation and affordable housing. Many training programs pay participants during training so they can afford to engage in training intended to prepare them for career opportunities at D-H.

Norman: Anchor ideas are also increasing our focus on community strategies to address housing and food needs. D-H reported financial support to Twin Pines Housing Trust and the Upper Valley to help provide permanent housing with case management for community members affected by chronic homelessness. Stable housing allows these community members to engage in self-care, keep up with appointments and medications, and regain a sense of community.

Currier: As part of our anchor approach, we are using open land at DHMC to create a “Farmacy Garden” and orchard, Willing Hands (a local food recovery program in the Upper Valley) to grow nutritious food for local people who are having trouble feeding their families. And through our supply chain offices, we’re using purchasing power to support local vendors who supply items such as bottled water and fresh vegetables.

Are other health care organizations developing anchor strategies?

Currier: D-H is a member of the Healthcare Anchor Network, which puts us in touch with 40-leading national health care organizations. Two, annual conferences focus on topics like inclusive hiring or supply chain management and give us an opportunity to share ideas, experiences and best practices with peers. Monthly calls cover topics of choice to the participants.

We have developed great relationships. We have a lot in common with peers in Vermont and Maine and often share ideas. We also learn a lot from innovative work being done further away.

How does D-H measure if our anchor strategy is working?

Currier: Measuring our overall impact on communities is difficult. Many efforts linked to our anchor strategy are long-term and our anchor strategy efforts can’t be separated from all the other things happening in local economies.

We do measure the impact of our internal programs. For example, we track the number of households served through our in-home outreach, the career paths of our training program graduates and the percentage of locally-sourced food served by our food service operations, and can see that those programs and others are supporting people and communities.

Health in Everything We Do: For our patients, our people and our community

At D-H we know that to truly advance health, we need to improve health outside the walls of our hospitals as well as inside. We do this by supporting access to healthy food, affordable homes, vibrant economies, strong families and safe communities. As the largest employer in New Hampshire, we have a lot of economic power through our organization and employees. When health is a part of everything we do, we make New Hampshire and Vermont better places to live, work and be healthy.