Date Published: 16 August 2019

Portland area nonprofit groups form social health network (USA)

Thrive Local, first announced in June 2019, has been described as "the most comprehensive, far-reaching network of its kind, creating connections between health care providers and social services agencies to address pressing social needs such as housing, food, safety, transportation, and utilities"1.

This network, which is an initiative of Kaiser Permanente2 and technology company Unite Us3, will involve close cooperation between many non-profit and government agencies as well as other health systems and health centers. According to a recent statement1 more than 300 representatives from social services agencies in Oregon and Southwest Washington met this month to learn about Thrive Local whose overall purpose is to create a unified community-wide resource that can be replicated across the United States.

" Coordinated care organizations were designed to respond to the needs of the community in new and innovative ways. This effort presents us with an opportunity to connect with our partners at the forefront of this work," said Eric C. Hunter, CEO of CareOregon and board member of Health Share of Oregon.
" To address our community's biggest challenges, we need to start with whole-person care that includes addressing social needs. This new network is a much-needed step toward better connecting people with the resources they need to be healthy."

In her remarks, Ruth Williams-Brinkley, regional president for Kaiser Permanente in the Northwest, stated that while Kaiser Permanente has been assisting members with their social needs, it has become obvious that systemic change would require the participation of the whole community. Kaiser Permanente began seeking a solution that could be made available widely, across many kinds of organizations and settings, that would also help clinical staff understand what happened to patients after they left their care.

" Our research tells us that in the past year, unmet social needs were a barrier to health for 1 in 4 people living in Oregon and Southwest Washington. In addition, the vast majority of people — over 90% — want their medical provider to ask about their social needs and connect them with resources," she said.
" That's why we're here today — we know things must change, and it isn't enough that we treat only medical issues. In partnership with the agencies that are on the front lines of meeting social needs every day, we believe Thrive Local will help us improve the health of not only our members, but the entire community."

Kaiser Permanente's research also found that 13% of Oregon and Southwest Washington residents prioritized paying for food or rent over seeing a doctor, and 11% couldn't go to the doctor or pick up medication because they lacked transportation.

" Nearly 15% of Oregonians have insufficient amounts of affordable, nutritious food; about 200,000 of them are children. We have one of the highest rates of homelessness among individuals and among families with kids," said Imelda Dacones, MD, president and chief executive officer, Northwest Permanente.
" We, physicians and clinicians, need partnerships with our community social services providers to address circumstances like these — social needs that impact our physical, mental, and emotional health."

In addition to being integrated into Kaiser Permanente's electronic health record system, where health care workers will have ready access to a directory of social services agencies, Thrive Local will will enable health care providers to make referrals directly to community organizations and then track those referrals via the Unite Us technology platform to confirm that patient needs have been met. The platform will be made available to community-based organizations at no cost.

The new Thrive Local network is scheduled to become available from later this year beginning in the Portland area. Agencies will be added to the network on an ongoing basis. It is hoped that within 3 years, it will be available to all of Kaiser Permanente's 12.3 million members and the 68 million people in the communities Kaiser Permanente serves across the United States.

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