Health Care Without Harm is undertaking a national study of non-profit hospitals’ community benefit practices to improve healthy food access and reduce risk of diet-related disease. We’re excited to share information about the initiative below.

Recent changes under the ACA to IRS regulations governing the community benefit obligations of tax-exempt hospitals build on a movement by health industry leaders to promote greater community engagement and a population health orientation in community benefit practices. There is now a powerful new opportunity for non- profit hospitals to collaborate with other stakeholders to implement community health improvement plans that address social determinants of health such as housing, environmental and safety conditions, and the availability of quality, affordable food.

In this three-year project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Health Care Without Harm is conducting a national study of non-profit hospitals’ community benefit practices targeted to strengthening food system resilience and sustainability, improving physical and economic access to healthy foods, and promoting healthier dietary patterns and healthy body weight. Through a national survey, in-depth interviews, and case studies, the study will identify best hospital community benefit practices as well as model programs promoting sustainable and healthy food systems.

Research Aims

  • Examine the extent to which hospital facilities are integrating food access, food insecurity, dietary patterns, obesity, and diet-related non-communicable disease (DR-NCD) in their Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNAs)
  • Analyze the kinds of Community Benefit (CB) investments that are taking place to strengthen food system resilience and sustainability, promote physical and economic access to healthy foods, improve dietary patterns, and reduce obesity and DR-NCD risk
  • Identify facilitators and obstacles to hospitals’ choosing to direct CB funds to obesity and food- related interventions
  • Identify best CB practices. These will include best practices in CHNAs; collaboration with public health agencies, community groups, and other stakeholders; implementation plans; and program evaluation based on criteria derived from a literature review and from the study
  • Identify model programs targeting food & nutrition-related community health impacts and improvements to food systems sustainability, which are currently or potentially could be supported by CB funds, based on criteria derived from a literature review and from the study

Desired Outcomes

  • Strengthen collaboration among stakeholders
  • Develop and disseminate tools for hospital facilities, the public health community, food security and environmental advocacy groups
  • Promote best practices

Survey invitations will be sent to a random sample of tax-exempt hospitals to learn about how hospitals include food insecurity, healthy food access, and diet-related health conditions in their community health needs assessments and implementation plans. If you receive an invitation to complete the brief survey, please do so! Your contribution is vital. Findings will be made available through various learning networks, including Community Commons.

Heath CHealth Care Without Harm Logoare Without Harm seeks to transform the health sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, to become ecologically sustainable and a leading advocate for environmental health and justice. This project is being conducted by our Healthy Food in Health Care program. To learn more, please contact: Susan Bridle-Fitzpatrick, Senior Researcher, Healthy Food in Health Care Program, HCWH at [email protected], 1-888-264-7721 or visit www.noharm.org.