Can Hospitals Heal?

Read a great report today by The Democracy Collaborative that should be a must read for all food system organizers. It is vital that markets build their capacity to anchor their food systems, and hospital partnerships have evolved tremendously to assist with that. Hospitals can offer space for campus and other  market types, fund incentivizing healthy eating, change their purchasing to offer farmers another sales outlet, conduct research with markets, offer trained health professionals to assist with strategy and outreach and much more.

More on the campus market: this is one of the early types that came from Market Umbrella’s trans•act work; I have continued to use it as a framework when working with new market partners. I think campus markets can work in more cases, but the governance, products and partnerships have to be aligned closely to the goals of the market: So in this example, since the shopping population is usually drawn entirely from inside the campus,there may be a natural ceiling on sales for the vendors. Yet, the well designed campus market may find other ways to incentivize or reward these vendors including offering more exclusives on product offerings, rewarding consistent vendors with reduced fees, putting them first in line for institutional purchases, offering a pre-sold market box to campus members to bolster sales or even allowing those vendors to access the services for free on the day they come to sell at market!

The market may even hire its manager from the campus and should include campus market champions (using Kaiser-Permanente’s early language) on their board. Since the shopping base is more or less a controlled population, projects could focus more on sharing information for the campus and creating a welcoming and attractive respite or reward of hospital work or appointments.


The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute found that over 40 percent of the factors that contribute to the length and quality of life are social and economic; another 30 percent are health behaviors, directly shaped by socio-economic factors; and another 10 percent are related to the physical environment where we live and make day to day choices—again inextricably linked to social and economic realities. Just 10 to 20 percent of what creates health is related to access to care, and the quality of the services received.

Some call this new approach to health “the anchor mission,” meaning that a hospital not only provides charitable and philanthropic support for the community, but begins to re-orient its institutional business practices to benefit the place in which it is based.


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