Community benefits are non-profit programs and services created to improve the health conditions of vulnerable populations. They are initiatives designed to help the community health services and well – being through the implementation of strategies that aim to address real needs within the community.
Yosef Meystel knows that these programs are important in every city, including Chicago since they aim to offer free or more affordable health care services to low-income individuals who cannot pay for decent health care service or are Medicaid beneficiaries. For community benefits, it is vital to provide access to health care to everyone in the community who needs it.
In order to qualify as a community benefit, health care organizations have to meet at least one of the following objectives:
Improve access to health care service: Community Benefits should support the creation of new health care access points, expanding the capacity of these points to serve more members of the community. By improving the access to health care services, disadvantaged individuals living in isolated places or in difficult health conditions will have more chances of having access to the health care services they need.
Enhance the health of the community: Programs and services created as Community Benefits must identify community needs and provide the required treatments to those who need them. Also, healing programs should be implemented in order to fulfill the already identified needs within the community.
Advance medical or health care knowledge: Community Benefits should be led by health care specialists working in facilities designed to meet the health needs of the community. Certifications and knowledge need to be proven in order for a program or service to qualify for a Community Benefit.
Relieve or reduce the burden of government or other community efforts: Programs and services should operate separately from the government but sometimes in cooperation with it without becoming an extra headache. Community Benefits’ goal should be to strengthen healthcare systems through funding and policy development that allows to build and support an effective service infrastructure to help the community.
How to Develop Community Benefits?
Health care providers need to plan coherent strategies in a comprehensive framework in order to be able to plan, develop and report the results of their community benefits. Building a sustainable infrastructure is one of the most important elements of these initiatives given the fact that they need to have an adequate facility to operate where the required staff members can be hired, the needed budget can be assigned and policies and procedures can be properly implemented.
Another important thing that healthcare organizations should keep in mind is the community needs they should address. These needs should be categorized with the help of public health experts and/or community partners in order to know the goals your community benefit should set and the outcomes it is going to measure based on the execution of their programs.
Besides having a sustainable infrastructure and a set of identified needs to address, community benefits need to have a group of standardized principles and practices that can help them build a sustainable administrative and accounting process. No matter if they are not-for-profit initiatives, Community Benefits need to implement accurate accounting processes that they can use to report their activities to the community the IRS and some state or local agencies.
An important Supporter of Community Benefit in Chicago
After identifying some of the most pressing needs in the wind city, the Sinai Health System developed a program that aims to improve the health conditions of vulnerable populations living under a medically underserved status, dedicating in 2014 over $43,952,717 to community benefits.
Located on the West and Southwest sides of the city, Sinai Health System is composed of six member organizations located strategically in a four square block main campus: Holy Cross Hospital, Sinai Community Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital, Sinai Medical Group and Sinai Urban Health Institute. This system serves at least 1.5 million people every year in the Chicago area, addressing the needs of refugees from different nations, African-American and Latino patients living under undesirable conditions.
Through the Community Benefits, the Sinai Health System supports, health services are delivered to the most economically challenged communities in Illinois. Patients at the Sinai Health System usually are supported by Medicaid or don’t even have an insurance.
Some of the most important contributions of the Sinai Health System include the development of the Sinai Urban Health Institute (SUHI), an organization dedicated to educating the community on the identification of chronic diseases. SUHI works with neighborhood groups and goes door to door talking to individuals in vulnerable health conditions that may suffer from a chronic disease.
Community Benefits supported by the Sinai Health System help to improve the wellbeing of individuals within the community in Chicago, mainly focusing on women, children, families, teens, and the elder. Serving low-income individuals whose life is often changed thanks to the programs and services offered by the health system, that include the end of isolation for seniors, options for teens living on the streets, education programs for high school students and teachings for young mothers who need help to care for their babies.