At the de Beaumont Foundation, I have been fortunate to work on the BUILD Health Challenge – a funding collaborative that supports community coalitions between hospitals, public health departments, and community-based nonprofits. Each of the 18 communities is addressing the downstream impacts of disease through upstream interventions that address the root causes of illness. These root causes include everything from food insecurity, to poor housing quality, to violence, and access to parks and recreational spaces.

Welcome to the Bronx sign - Bronx Healthy Buildings Program

Welcome to the Bronx sign in Point Morris. Photo: Chris Arnade.

The best part of my job is getting to see grants in action. Recently I visited the Bronx Healthy Buildings Program, where the BUILD team is working on remediating apartment buildings to reduce asthma triggers within the home. This group is tracking asthma visits to the local hospital partner (Montefiore Medical Center) and mapping patient addresses from those emergency department trips against housing code violations. The short term goal is to retrofit “sick” multi-family housing units with cleaner, more environmentally (and human) friendly heating units. The long term goal is to improve the health of residents of the Northwest Bronx.

What surprises me most is why aren’t more groups doing this type of work?

What’s happening in the Bronx is an important common sense solution that didn’t require new scientific breakthroughs. Because of the BUILD Health partnership, a community-based organization (Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition) is now able to access hospital data, which they can then use to improve the health of local residents. Pretty straightforward, right?

Unfortunately, this kind of cross-sectoral partnership is very rare because it can be difficult and complicated to implement. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.

In May, the Practical Playbook is bringing together leaders and practitioners from across public health, health care, and philanthropy for its inaugural National Meeting in Bethesda. They will be working to catalyze, accelerate, and connect people who are already working in alignment to improve the health of their patients and communities.

PPB National Meeting

At this meeting, we will lift up stellar examples of cross-sector collaborations, as well as normalize them. We know this work can be done – and we want to gather the best examples we can find to share their experiences, successes, and even failures to advance community health across the nation.

The meeting will straddle the line between showing what is possible while providing meeting participants with tangible, practical tools. We’ll talk about best practices but will also make space for conversations about real world challenges such as data collection and sharing, managing multi-sector partnerships, and obtaining the necessary funding to support this type of work.

The work being done in the Bronx is necessary and important, but without a broader community of support, cross-sectoral collaborations often falter. None of us can do this work alone.

Come join us May 22-24 and become a part of the movement for population health improvement. Explore the meeting agenda, see the list of confirmed speakers, and register to join us this spring. We hope to see you there.

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About the Author

Catherine Patterson, MPP, is a Senior Program Officer at the de Beaumont Foundation. In this capacity, Patterson is responsible for the administration and management of the Foundation’s grant portfolio. In June of 2015, Patterson helped launch the BUILD Health Challenge, a funding collaborative that leverages the funding dollars and support services of five organizations. BUILD offers more than $8 million in order to stimulate and support innovative partnerships between hospitals, public health, and communities to improve opportunities for health across the United States.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Patterson worked at the Pew Charitable Trusts. As a part of the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign, Patterson led efforts in several states to help expand access to preventive oral health services, such as dental sealants and fluoridated water. While at Pew, Patterson led a successful campaign to secure a regulatory change that expanded access to fluoridated water for over 4 million people. Prior to working at Pew, Patterson taught preschool for five years, leading classrooms for both Head Start and the Virginia Preschool Initiative.