Episcopal Health Foundation leaders have released a five-year “big picture” plan that targets specific outcomes needed to address the root causes of poor health in Texas.
“We’re sharpening our focus to level the playing field so that Texans with the least resources have the same chance of achieving good health as all other groups,” said Bishop C. Andrew Doyle, the ninth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and chair of EHF’s board of directors.
The plan focuses on helping all Texans – especially those with the fewest resources – live healthier lives by identifying and preventing the causes of illness and other health problems. One of the plan’s three goals is to strengthen systems of health in Texas to become more accessible and address the underlying causes of poor health.
“The health system in Texas is like an orchestra, and medical care is just one section on the stage,” said Elena Marks, EHF’s president and CEO. “If all the health system offers is more medical procedures, then it doesn’t address all the other factors that determine health. Nonprofits, hospitals, community clinics, government agencies, churches, and other organizations need to be in concert together to allow all Texans to access the health system. And that system needs to deliver health, not just more healthcare.”
Strengthen Systems of Health
As part of an effort to concentrate on outcomes, rather than just focus areas, EHF’s plan targets two specific results needed to strengthen the systems of health in Texas:
- More health system resources are focused on improving health, not just healthcare
- Low-income and vulnerable populations access comprehensive care in their communities
The foundation believes it can help reach those outcomes by working with institutions to discover new ways of paying for improved health outcomes. EHF’s plan remains focused on supporting community-based clinics to address the social determinants of health and offer more comprehensive services, expanding health insurance coverage to low-income populations, and strengthening rural health.
Build the Foundation for a Healthy Life
EHF’s strategic plan also places a renewed investment in building early child brain development. By supporting pregnancies and optimal brain development during a child’s first three years, EHF believes it can ensure children, particularly those in low-income and at-risk families, have the best chance at a healthy life.
“A child’s first three years offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build a healthy brain,” Marks said. “This literal construction of the brain is critical and occurs at the fastest rate during these three years. If we as a community are successful at building strong brains, then those babies are more likely to become successful, healthy adults.”
To reach this goal, EHF believes health systems and families must implement the best practices for brain development during pregnancy and the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. EHF’s plan is to work with healthcare providers to reach pregnant women and the families of young children with the leading practices for brain development. The plan also calls for specific support of community-based organizations as they help families provide the positive experiences, and reduce the negative incidents, that determine their child’s physical brain development.
Finally, successful solutions to the complex health challenges in Texas require the input of those most affected by the issues. That’s why EHF believes communities and congregations need to actively shape health in their communities so that every Texan has the opportunity at attain their highest level of health.
EHF’s plan aims to strengthen organizations and congregations by raising community voices to become advocates for health, and by supporting congregations to improve well-being in their communities.
“We are called to know and care for our neighbors, especially the poor and powerless,” said Marks. “Through this work, we hope to raise the voices of all people and build connections that transcend differences to improve health of entire communities.”