November 17, 2017

Keynote speaker America Bracho emphasizes the role of community outreach

The third day of the Putting Care at the Center conference kicked off in downtown Los Angeles this morning with a keynote address from America Bracho, executive director of Latino Health Access, who propelled a theme of community empowerment. Latino Health Access’ “Promotore” model entails employees and volunteers who create relationships together with neighbors to promote healing throughout their communities. Intrinsic to the field of complex care are authentic healing relationships that empower people and encourage them to be active participants in their own healthcare.

“If you want to improve public health, you have to reach out into the community; listen to people, hear their stories, and learn about all of their strengths and aspirations so together we can address needs,” said Ms. Bracho, author of Recruiting the Heart, Training the Brain: The Work of Latino Health Access. “Healthcare is a human right, and opportunities for good health start at school, at work, and at home with healthy food, healthy habits, and a stable, safe place to live. We can’t tackle diabetes without addressing obesity. We can’t address obesity without ensuring access to open space and fresh vegetables. The people at this conference are looking at the big picture of healthcare, not just the whole person, but the whole community.”

The theme of community health was picked up in the Beehive stations and workshops by speakers, panelists, participants, and presenters. Cyrus Batheja of UnitedHealthcare spoke of stories as a vehicle for relationship-building in the Conversations with Experts section of the Beehive. In the Technology Exchange section, Julia Resnick of the American Hospital Association highlighted tools to help the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) process engage communities and further population health strategies. In a workshop focused on the relationship between social determinants of health and local direct organizing, Nancy Pope-White of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers’ Community Advisory Council emphasized the importance of reaching into communities to develop strong relationships and systems of support.

“Community healthcare doesn’t work effectively when it’s top-down,” said Ms. Pope-White. “We can offer people resources; we can educate them about healthy choices, but unless we develop the relationships that empower them to take control of their health and their lives, it will always be an uphill struggle. We know how important support networks are to healing and recovery. We know how much social factors like access to food and shelter affect health outcomes. In order to treat the whole person, we really need to engage and empower the community to make them whole.”

Putting Care at the Center 2017 is the second annual conference of the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs and is co-hosted by Kaiser Permanente. The conference’s goal is to further the field of complex care, integrating social services with medical and behavioral healthcare in a whole-person approach that puts care at the center. Next year’s conference will take place in Chicago during the fall of 2018.

Download the press release