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Press Release: Toolkit for Transformation

Mobilizing anchor institutions Centering community and place


WASHINGTON, DC – September 27, 2016

The Democracy Collaborative today introduced Hospitals Aligned for Healthy Communities, a toolkit series to help health systems use their hiring, purchasing and investing power to improve the health and well-being of underserved communities and communities of color.

“Inclusive, Local Hiring: Building the Pipeline to a Healthy Community” is the first installment in the series, developed with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It provides hospital and health system leaders with the tools they need to harness their everyday business operations to drive community health, focusing in particular on workforce, procurement and investment.

“Our toolkit provides healthcare leaders with a comprehensive resource for engaging with their communities to fulfill their hiring needs in a way that is local, diverse and inclusive,” said Ted Howard, president and co-founder of The Democracy Collaborative, a Washington, D.C.-based national non-profit research and consulting organization.

This process is already underway in Albuquerque, N.M., where a coalition of major “anchor institutions” today is launching the Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque initiative to help neighborhoods that have suffered from under-investment.

Spearheaded by the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in collaboration with The Democracy Collaborative and the Albuquerque Community Foundation, Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque includes Presbyterian Healthcare Services, First Choice Community Healthcare, Central New Mexico Community College and Albuquerque Public Schools.

Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque will leverage the economic clout of these leading employers and purchasers to create jobs by buying and hiring locally, said Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD, UNM’s Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences.

“We want to improve the health and well-being for everyone in our community,” Larson said. “Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque gives us a powerful tool for creating and sustaining Main Street jobs. It’s a model that other academic health centers could emulate.”

Albuquerque’s program is based on the Greater University Circle Initiative, a model of locally focused economic development pioneered in Cleveland, Ohio. It harnessed the purchasing power from University Hospitals (UH), Cleveland Clinic, and Case Western Reserve University to address persistent poverty in seven neighborhoods surrounding University Circle.

“As a Cleveland resident, I can see first-hand the way in which a health system can be a leader in responsible purchasing and hiring,” said The Democracy Collaborative’s Ted Howard. He continued, “In Cleveland, the Greater University Circle Initiative has created 1,800 new jobs and connected 429 residents with career and educational training, and over 500 residents have now have access to affordable housing.”

Nationally, hospitals and health systems represent a potent engine of investment. The American Hospital Association estimates the purchasing power of U.S. hospital and health systems at more than $342 billion. The sector employs more than 5.6 million people across the U.S.

With the Affordable Care Act requiring non-profit hospitals to conduct community health assessments, hospitals are discovering that poverty, hunger, poor housing and unemployment are surfacing as leading needs. By embracing job training and hiring policies that prioritize local residents, health systems can improve the health of the communities they serve in the course of doing business.

That’s where The Democracy Collaborative’s new toolkit series comes in.

Developed by Healthcare Engagement Manager David Zuckerman and Research Associate Katie Parker over a year and through interviews with healthcare HR and workforce managers and executives, it includes in-depth strategy descriptions, worksheets for getting started and a series of case studies of health systems that are implementing workforce solutions to improve community health. For example, the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus and the Johns Hopkins University Health System has partnered with local non-profits to provide training to local residents for high-need, high-turnover positions.

Catholic Health Initiatives, based in Denver, Colorado is energized to begin using the toolkits. Their Vice President of Community Health, Diane Jones notes, “At CHI, we understand that our health system’s responsibility to the communities we serve goes beyond our role in providing clinical care. In working closely with our strategy team to develop a holistic approach to creating healthy communities, I am excited to make use of these new toolkits from The Democracy Collaborative, as we build and energize relationships with employees, clinicians, consumers and partners to strengthen our communities.” 

Steven D. Standley, University Hospital’s Chief Administrative Officer, also voiced support, “if we are going to address health disparities we also must be leaders in addressing economic disparities. UH needs healthcare workers such as medical assistants and pharmacy technicians. We are committed to their success; they are fully part of the UH family.”

In addition, Michellene Davis, Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at RWJBarnabas Health in New Jersey said, “RWJBarnabas Health is committed to advancing the overall health of the community we serve. That commitment includes developing hiring practices geared towards employing local residents in positions that allow them to adequately provide for their families, grow in the medical field and help our local economy flourish. We are excited to work with allied organizations and The Democracy Collaborative on this effort.”

Tyler Norris, vice president of total health partnerships at Kaiser Permanente, based in Oakland, California, also endorsed the toolkit, “Given the strong evidence base on the determinants of health and health equity, it is the responsibility of healthcare systems to promote clinical, educational, economic, environmental, and social actions that improve the health of all people. Increasing access to jobs that improve the standard of living for families in the communities we serve, is a key element of improving community health, and The Democracy Collaborative’s new resource will be an asset for Kaiser Permanente and the field.”

The first toolkit in the series, available for free online, focuses on how hospitals and health systems can create job opportunities in surrounding communities facing high unemployment, and then connect these local residents to career advancement opportunities. “Inclusive, Local Hiring” toolkit is available online at:

About The Democracy Collaborative:

The Democracy Collaborative is dedicated to developing new ways to build community wealth and stronger local economies, including through transformative partnerships with anchor institutions like hospitals and health systems. For more information, visit:


Erin Kesler
Phone: (202) 559-1473 x133
Twitter: @democracycollab


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