Hospital Leadership as Key Partners in our Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) Work

February 15, 2023 by Desiree de la Torre, MPH, MBA & Chaya Merrill, DrPH

Every three years non-profit hospitals across the United States are mandated to release a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and accompanying Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) that responds to the findings of the assessment. We blogged about our hospital’s release of both of these reports last year: CHNA and CHIP. While the reports are released triennially, these initiatives comprise a large part of our ongoing work within the Child Health Advocacy Institute (CHAI) – the advocacy arm of Children’s National Hospital. This iteration of the CHNA and CHIP marks our fourth release since 2013. In the past, the CHAI has led the CHNA and CHIP initiatives for several hospitals and community health centers across the city as part of the DC Health Matters Collaborative. With each release, we have produced stronger assessments and more meaningful strategies to address the assessment findings.

With this latest assessment, Children’s National and HSC Pediatric Center (a specialty hospital that is part of Children’s National) focused specifically on children living in our hospitals’ primary service area (PSA): D.C. and two counties in Maryland (Prince George’s County and Montgomery County). Moving beyond looking solely at clinical measures, we used the Child Opportunity Index to understand variances in the level of opportunity that neighborhoods in our PSA offer children. “Opportunity” can be thought of as those neighborhood resources and conditions that help children grow to their potential, such as access to high-quality education, clean air, and jobs. The COI helped us identify 21 neighborhoods in our PSA that were classified as very low-opportunity areas for children. We then worked with community stakeholders to identify specific areas, within these 21 neighborhoods, that hospitals and community partners could address to improve the level of opportunity offered to children in these neighborhoods. We selected the following four priority areas: early childhood education, healthy food, health insurance coverage and employment rates. We have been working with a broad group of stakeholders to develop strategies for addressing these four priority areas over the next three years – these strategies are summarized in our Community Health Improvement Plan.

Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much – Helen Keller

One thing we have learned over the years is that we cannot address these big issues alone. We need the energy, excitement and buy-in of our community and our hospital colleagues. We are pulling together several groups and individuals to engage in the dynamic process of improving conditions in our neighborhoods – specifically related to education, food, health insurance, and employment – that help children develop in a healthy way. Our hospitals will work with many different stakeholders, while leveraging the work we are already doing in these areas, to bring even more meaningful and lasting change. We’ll feature different partners in our blog as we move this work forward. Today, we feature our CHIP Steering Committee – a really committed and influential group who we are excited to work with over the next three years.

CHIP Steering Committee

Our Steering Committee is comprised of representatives from across Children’s National and HSC that provide strategic direction for the CHIP and champion its work. Right now, we have over two dozen individuals who serve on this committee, including leaders from our communications, human resources, foundation, research and clinical operations, and the number is growing as leaders across the hospital are eager to join us.

We held our first Steering Committee meeting last week. The enthusiasm for this work was palpable! During the meeting we reviewed the responsibilities of Steering Committee Members and then discussed several questions:

Responsibilities of Steering Committee Members

  • Advise on the progress of work using agreed-upon indicators
  • Use their networks to make connections that ensure coordination and efficiency
  • Identify, monitor, and eliminate potential risks to the operation of the CHIP
  • Propose potential changes required to ensure the success of the CHIP
  • Provide updates on this work to applicable hospital boards
  • Be champions of this work

Discussion Questions

  • How can your individual department or those in your network align with the CHIP?
  • Are there budget and/or funding opportunities in the next fiscal year to support these efforts?
  • Do you have any advice on new policies or strategies to address the four focus areas?
  • How do you see yourself serving as a vocal champion of this work in the organization and in the community?

The discussion questions fueled a great conversation with the Steering Committee. Committee members shared several thoughts, including:

  • The critical importance of budgeting for this work in the hospital’s annual budget.
  • Their ability to connect other groups at the hospital to this work.
  • The role that philanthropy and government agencies can play in funding CHIP strategies.
  • The excitement they felt to be involved in community health improvement efforts in addition to their day-to-day clinical responsibilities.

We are off to a solid start! We’ve engaged our hospital leadership and community partners throughout the entire process, created an external advisory board with composed of caregivers from the CHNA neighborhoods and will be pulling together our CHIP working groups in the coming months! As we move through this process, we will post updates to this blog in hopes that we can serve as a resource or inspiration to others working on community health efforts. We are always open to your thoughts and feedback:

Header Photo by Tetbirt Salim on Unsplash

About the author

Desiree de la Torre
Desiree de la Torre, MPH, MBA

Director of Community Affairs & Population Health Improvement within the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children's National Hospital

Chaya Merrill, DrPH

Director of Child Health Data Lab within the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children's National Hospital