Start: September 2016

Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit


Given the importance of social determinants in individuals’ health outcomes, health care organizations (HCO) across the country are pursuing partnerships with community-based organizations (CBOs) — such as housing organizations, workforce development agencies, and food banks — to meet non-medical needs that may be driving poor health outcomes, particularly for high-need and vulnerable populations. These partnerships are occurring under a variety of models, yet little is known about the factors that contribute to their success.

To help uncover characteristics influencing successful partnerships and identify strategies to support the spread of these partnerships, the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) is partnering on a number of national projects:

Partnership for Healthy Outcomes: Bridging Community-Based Human Services and Health Care

With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Partnership for Healthy Outcomes brought together Nonprofit Finance Fund, the Center for Health Care Strategies, and the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities to capture insights on partnerships between CBOs and HCOs, particularly those serving low-income and vulnerable populations. Through a survey released in early 2017, representatives from CBOs and HCOs across the country were invited to share information about their partnerships, including: governance and structure; services provided and workflows; information exchange; goals and measurement strategies; funding model; and lessons for addressing challenges and sustainability.

To advance effective partnerships across the nation, responses to the survey were used to develop a report synthesizing lessons from partnerships across the nation; case studies that explore a subset of these leading partnerships; and a Partnership Assessment Tool for Health (PATH) to help CBOs and HCOs maximize the impact of their partnerships.

Advancing CBO/Health Care Partnerships to Address Social Determinants of Health

Through support from Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit, CHCS and Nonprofit Finance Fund are building upon the knowledge generated under the national RFI made possible by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and further delineating strategies for supporting CBO-HCO partnerships. Resources and tools to be developed and shared nationally, include:

  • Three case studies;
  • Three tools, focused on planning and implementation of partnerships; and
  • National webinar in spring/summer 2018.

Supporting Massachusetts CBO-Provider Partnership Opportunities

As MassHealth launches its accountable care organization (ACO) program, a key driver of program success will be the ACOs’ ability to address social determinants of health, particularly among high-need, high-cost patients. Rather than deliver such services directly, most ACOs will likely to partner with CBOs to incorporate relevant social supportive services into new care delivery models.

To help Massachusetts’ providers, CBOs, payers, and others explore the types of activities and approaches that could best support viable partnerships and drive improved outcomes, CHCS worked with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation to hold a public stakeholder convening in Boston in May 2017. An upcoming brief in winter 2017-2018 will outline actionable takeaways and operational activities to help Massachusetts providers and CBOs establish effective partnerships.