David Zuckerman joined The Democracy Collaborative team in 2012 and serves as Director for Healthcare Engagement. David leads the coordination of the Healthcare Anchor Network—a health system-led collaboration focused on improving community health and well-being by building inclusive and sustainable local economies. The Network includes more than 40 health systems to date.
David is the co-author of the Hospitals Aligned for Healthy Communities toolkit series. His work focuses on inclusive and equitable economic development strategies that build wealth in low-income communities, with specific attention on how hospitals and health systems can deploy the business side of their institutions to support community health improvement and strengthen their local economies.
David is also the author of Hospitals Building Healthier Communities: Embracing the Anchor Mission and a contributor to Can Hospitals Heal America's Communities. He is the lead author of a National Academy of Medicine discussion paper, Building a Culture of Health at the Federal Level. He serves as Treasurer on the Board of Trustees for the Consumer Health Foundation.
Every day, we learn more about how patients’ health outcomes are tied not only to the healthcare they receive but also to the conditions in the communities where they live. Social and economic inequities, amplified by race, often emerge as the leading factors explaining differences in health outcomes and life expectancies.
Through local and inclusive hiring, health systems can invest in an ecosystem of success that lifts up local residents; helps create career pathways for low-income, minority, and hard-to-employ populations; and begins to transform neighborhoods. In the process, health systems can develop a more efficient workforce pipeline, meet sustainability and inclusion goals, and ultimately improve the health of their communities. Establishing a local and inclusive hiring strategy is an important first step towards rethinking your health system’s role in the community. This toolkit can help you get started.
The Democracy Collaborative’s latest report, Hospitals Building Healthier Communities, provides an in-depth look at six hospitals in five cities that are rethinking their economic and community engagement strategies. These hospitals have recognized that health is more than just treating the patients that come through their doors and are beginning to adopt an “anchor institution mission” that can help build not only more prosperous, but also healthier communities.
Study after study demonstrates that poverty is a powerful driver of poor health. Many of America's leading hospitals exist in poor communities. Could these powerful institutions (in economic as well as medical terms) help overcome the deeper sources of failing health among the 46 million Americans living in poverty?
A little-known provision of Obamacare provides an unexpected opening.
This report, prepared by the Democracy Collaborative and submitted to the City of Jacksonville, Florida, highlights key strategic opportunities to leverage existing assets to build wealth in a neighborhood facing concentrated poverty and disinvestment.
Healthcare’s role in creating healthy communities through increasing access to quality care, research, and grantmaking is being complemented by a higher impact approach; hospitals and integrated health systems are increasingly stepping outside of their walls to address the social, economic, and environmental conditions that contribute to poor health outcomes, shortened lives, and higher costs in the first place.
- Modern Healthcare
Merrill Goozner writes in Modern Healthcare "Editorial: Anchors aweigh on tackling the social determinants of health." In this editorial, Goozner writes about the work of the Healthcare Anchor Network:
Next week, a 2-year-old network of major healthcare systems dedicated to combating the social problems contributing to ill health in their own backyards will go public. They've chosen to highlight a San Francisco Bay Area food production center that will be up and running by the end of this year.
Located in Richmond, a working-class community that's two-thirds Hispanic and African-American, the center will employ about 200 people in what its sponsors promise will be living-wage jobs. Hospitals belonging to Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health and the University of California at San Francisco will purchase fresh meals from the facility.
Organizers say this is just the start of a nationwide movement to use healthcare systems, often a community's largest employer and purchaser, as an "anchor" institution for local economic development. Three dozen major systems, which collectively represent 600 hospitals with over 1 million employees in more than 400 cities and towns, have already signed on to the Healthcare Anchor Network. They are pledging to use their hiring, purchasing and investment decisions to promote better-paying jobs.
It's a promising development in healthcare's evolving approach to population health. The core concept rests on the belief that achieving better health outcomes for the populations for which they're at risk financially will ultimately depend on improving the social conditions that spawned their diseases.
- Chicago Magazine
Writing in Chicago Magazine, Nissa Rhee writes a long-form article on the effects of poverty in Chicago; "A second city." Rhee quotes David Zuckerman about the anchor strategy in Chicago's West Side Total Health Collaborative:
“Our job as doctors is to heal and prevent suffering,” says Ansell. “In this situation, the healing needs to be aimed at neighborhoods.”
While most anchor institution strategies around the country have focused on one issue, employment or housing for example, the West Side Total Health Collaborative has a wide scope and an impressive goal: To improve life expectancy across region and halve the 16-year life expectancy gap between West Garfield Park and the Loop by 2030.
According to David Zuckerman, a manager for health care engagement at the Democracy Collaborative and organizer of the Healthcare Anchor Network, it is “the most ambitious collective strategy around anchor work” he’s seen to redirect money into a particular region.
- Chicago Magazine
Nissa Rhee, writing for Chicago Magazine, in "Rush Hospital Wants to Tackle the West Side “Death Gap.” Will It Work?" In this piece, Rhee highlights in the work that the Healthcare Anchor Network:
All this exemplifies a national movement by nonprofits and public institutions “to think differently about how to use its economic resources and social capital to really benefit not only its long-term wellbeing but that of the community,” says David Zuckerman, a manager for health care engagement at the Democracy Collaborative and organizer of the Healthcare Anchor Network, a group of 30 health systems that are doing this work.
Zuckerman says that hospitals have a lot of “sticky capital,” or “dollars that can’t pick up and leave the way that manufacturing or many corporate employers have left communities.” They are in essence grounded cruise ships, requiring a huge staff, thousands of meals for patients, medical supplies, and linen cleaning services. If hospitals are able to redirect some of their purchasing and hiring to their neighbors, say using a local laundromat instead of shipping soiled bed sheets further away, they could have a large impact on the community, says Zuckerman.
- Wall Street Journal
Kate King, writing for the Wall Street Journal, in 'A New Role For Hospitals: Boosting the Local Economy.' In this article, King highlights the anchor work by New Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, NJ and the vision and leadership by the Democracy Collaborative:
“The current fee-for-service model, in which we’re not actually addressing the root causes for why people are showing up in the emergency room, just is not sustainable,” said David Zuckerman, director of health-care engagement for the Democracy Collaborative, a think tank and advisory group.
- Next City
Oscar Perry, writing for Next City, highlights the work of the Democracy Collaborative in "Leveling the Playing Field in City Contracting." In this long form piece, Perry writes about why New York City has doubled their contracts with women-and-minority-owned firm. As well as, the work of Democracy Collaborative's thought leadership, direction, and work with anchor instutitons through the Healthcare Anchor Network:
Corporations and anchor institutions like hospitals and universities are stepping up MWBE contracting commitments and programs, too. The Democracy Collaborative, a nonprofit that does research and builds leadership around equitable, inclusive and sustainable development, has been working with anchor institutions to support more diverse contracting through the lens of building stronger local economies. In January 2017, it formed the Healthcare Anchor Network, consisting of 30 healthcare systems nationwide.
“Healthcare systems are recognizing the need for intentionality to overcome the history of discrimination,” says David Zuckerman, who manages the network. Yet such programs remain in danger of going away when there’s a leadership change, he notes.
“If you can institutionalize it, and build it into your strategic plan, that’s what’s powerful,” he says. “We’re not there yet, but I think in the next year we’re going to see more health systems build this local impact work into their strategic plans.”
One way to institutionalize it: Make it someone’s job.
“There might be an official statement that ‘we’re going to prioritize the effort to increase our spend to MWBEs,’ but it’s not any one person’s job, it’s something extra,” Zuckerman says.