Lawrence General Looking Beyond its Walls to Improve Care

The American Hospital Association’s “Value Initiative” program has a great write-up of a successful program Lawrence General Hospital is operating to help its communities fight obesity and resultant health problems.

The “Healthy on the Block” program came about because Lawrence, which is predominantly Latino, has only one full-service grocery store, many of its residents lack transportation access to it, and so they get most of their staples from small convenience stores, or bodegas.

“In 2014, Lawrence General Hospital leaders joined the city’s Mayor’s Health Task Force to discuss how to allocate the hospital’s $2.5 million community benefit fund,” AHA writes. “The neighborhoods in Lawrence are like cultural pods in which people can meet all of their basic needs on foot within a two-block radius. The group decided that they might have the most impact by working with the neighborhood bodegas, which are not only a food resource, but are often the hub of the community.” Healthy on the Block provides “a one-time capital investment to set up refrigeration systems in bodegas so that produce and other healthy foods can be stored properly. Bodega owners are also advised on ways to display and label healthy food options so they are more appealing to customers.”

In the future, the Task Force hopes to track how much produce each bodega sells and then track diabetes rates around certain bodegas to see if the program is working as well as intended.

“Our work as a health care provider is to look beyond our four walls and redefine what it means to be a hospital,” says Dianne Anderson, R.N., Lawrence General’s president and CEO. “Keeping people healthy is the best outcome we can hope for.”