One way EHF supports building healthy communities is by convening stakeholders who want to work together to solve problems. Our most robust convening to date is underway in Northeast Texas, and it originated through the efforts of Christ Church Episcopal, Tyler.
In anticipation of the creation of EHF, Christ Church Episcopal formed a committee to examine health issues and identify opportunities for EHF to improve community health in Northeast Texas. The committee’s research showed that there was not adequate access to primary care for low income and uninsured residents. To the extent there were services available, the research showed those services were not coordinated. Drs. Tom Lowery and Paul Wick, who served on the committee, presented the information to EHF, and we agreed that this was an opportunity to bring together stakeholders to look for solutions.
EHF’s role as a convener is not to solve problems or drive an agenda. Instead, we serve as an independent, neutral facilitator to support the stakeholders in collaborative work. For difficult conversations among competitors or participants with conflicting interests, a skilled facilitator can pave the way for tough but productive conversations. For the Tyler convening, we brought in a professional facilitator and we also engaged researchers to conduct additional studies to inform the work.
The 10 stakeholders (three hospitals, three clinics, two mental health providers, public health department, and medical society) met individually with the EHF team at the outset and held three group meetings in 2015. The conversation has been difficult at times, but that gave way to a collaborative approach to problem solving. The group is committed to developing a formal system of coordination to ensure residents can access community-based primary care in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
Christ Church Episcopal provides a great example of how a congregation and EHF can work together to improve community health. While the church is not directly involved with the stakeholder convenings, it is because of the church’s connection to its community that the opportunity arose. The church gave EHF an introduction to the Tyler community and provided us with an opportunity to use our resources in convening/facilitation, research and grant-making in a meaningful way. We look forward to reporting on the progress of this work as we move forward.