By Jade Waddy
Memorial Hermann Health System recently unveiled its first Community Resource Center, an innovative new concept that is part of a broader expansion of efforts aimed at better addressing the holistic needs of the southwest Houston community.
“Our mission is to improve health, and we know that health care is only 20 percent of that picture,” said Carol Paret,
Senior Vice President and Chief Community Health Officer at Memorial Hermann. “You can never accomplish your mission of improving health if you only focus on clinical care. A patient’s health falls within the context of his or her life, and you have to address the context as much as the condition in order to move the needle on health.”
The Community Resource Center is located on the campus of Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital in the heart of a region of Greater Houston identified as having some of the most pervasive health challenges. It is staffed by Memorial Hermann community health workers who are equipped to help individuals in need navigate concerns impacting their health status, including care access, food insecurity, safe housing and transportation.
The Center also has on-site representatives from three federally qualified health clinics – Bee Busy Wellness
Center, AccessHealth and Avenue 360 – to help connect uninsured and underinsured individuals with vitally important access to primary and preventive care.
In addition to helping people obtain healthcare access, the Center also works to improve their lives beyond the traditional scope of health care through a partnership with the Houston Food Bank which maintains an on-site presence to help those identified as food insecure access fresh, healthy food.
The Center also offers access to Houston Volunteer Lawyers, which is a local group that provides educational clinics, free of charge, to help people navigate complex legal issues, including housing concerns.
No referrals are needed to access the Center. Many clients learn about the resource from Memorial Hermann clinicians who have identified that their patients are struggling at home and need a little extra assistance to get better.
“Not only can patients come to the Center, but members of the community can come get the resources they need before they enter a crisis state,” Paret said.
The Community Resource Center is the latest example of Memorial Hermann’s strategic shift in direction and underscores how Memorial Hermann has been redefining its role as a health system with a strengthened focus on addressing the social determinants of health – such as food, housing and transportation – that have an outsized influence of an individual’s health status.
In addition to the Community Resource Center, Memorial Hermann has been working to improve population health through a variety of initiatives, including:
• Screening patients for food insecurity and then connecting those in need with resources to obtain nutritious meals.
• Partnering with Meals on Wheels in a pilot program to identify patients unable to cook or shop on their own after they leave the hospital with several weeks’ worth of meals that have been tailored to meet their specific dietary needs and are then delivered directly to their homes, all at no cost to the patient.
• Assigning navigators to partner with uninsured and underinsured patients in the Emergency Center to connect them with appropriate medical homes and needed resources that can help them navigate any challenges they may experience after they leave the hospital.
• Partnering with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department to activate local parks through the implementation of soccer programs for youth, walking clubs for adults and families, and pop-up farmer’s markets on weekends.
It’s all part of a plan to ignite and inspire health and wellness across Greater Houston by sharpening the focus on the needs of the specific areas and regions that Memorial Hermann serves.
“We have a great responsibility and a moral obligation to do whatever we can to help make our community healthier,” Paret said. “That’s why it’s so important for Memorial Hermann to extend its care beyond the walls of our hospitals and clinics to help improve people’s lives where they live, work and play.”