Seeking the Heart of Community Health: A Bold, New Strategy

With the adoption of a new strategic plan, Care Ring is poised to expand our signature programs serving individuals with limited resources. We will intensify efforts to lift more families out of poverty and provide hope to more of our neighbors needing care.

But as we embark on a new chapter in Care Ring’s nearly seven decades of service in the Charlotte region, a new question is driving us to think beyond our current programs:

How can we create the best system of health care for everyone in our community?

We often describe Care Ring and our work as being at the “heart of community health.” But if we are too focused inward on our own operations and programs, and don’t take the time to look beyond our walls to learn how others in our community are making a difference, how can we stake a claim to being the heart of the entire community’s health?

In our new strategic plan, Care Ring embraces our mission to empower individuals with limited resources to establish and maintain good health. But we are now also turning much greater attention to our vision:

We envision a community that promotes, protects, and improves the health and well-being of all people.

Not some people. All people.

Not just the thousands of people we care for at our uptown Charlotte clinic. These folks come to us when their lives are often in turmoil. They are usually not in good health and need a helping hand. The majority of our clinic patients have multiple chronic diseases. More than half of our patients speak English as a second language. Few are eligible for public or private health insurance. All of our patients earn very little each year.

We envision a community that promotes, protects, and improves the health and well-being of all people.

Not just the thousands of individuals we help access the clinical, social and community support they need through our partnerships with Atrium Health, Novant Health, OrthoCarolina and many others. Many of these individuals need access to primary care to establish and maintain good health. Others find themselves in serious, life-threatening situations. Without our network of care and the generosity of more than 1,500 volunteer doctors and medical providers across our region, these neighbors would be without access to care they desperately need.

We envision a community that promotes, protects, and improves the health and well-being of all people.

Not just the hundreds of families we reach each year through our team of home visiting nurses in our Nurse-Family Partnership program. Care Ring’s NFP community health nurse superheroes go into oftentimes neglected neighborhoods across our city, building relationships and making multi-year commitments with new moms to prepare these families for long-term success. They empower families with the tools and support and community connections they need to break the chains of poverty.

While we are passionate about changing the lives of the individuals we serve through our Care Ring programs, we envision a community that promotes, protects, and improves the health and well-being of all people.

All people.

So this means we need to think beyond our current health care services at Care Ring.

We need to understand and support efforts across the county that are making a difference in improving the health and well-being of everyone, regardless of their station in life or their ability to afford health care services or health insurance.

We need to do so much more than just be better collaborators with other health care providers. We need to better understand the power of community agencies outside the traditional four walls of a health care clinic. Agencies that address the broader “social determinants of health” are in some ways even more important than traditional health care clinics in improving overall health.

Building better connections with other agencies and establishing community collaborations to help people in need is important, and we will always have this mindset. But we need to do more than just update our sister health care agencies on what we do and then hope we stumble on occasional collaborations.

We believe we need to go further.

We believe we need to work with partners from across the region to establish a strong community voice that holds ourselves AND our community accountable for a greatly improved continuum of care and much better health outcomes.

For all people.

Over the next year, Care Ring is leading a community engagement campaign with a goal to develop a better system of care for ALL. To reach this goal, we need to hear about what is working in community health in our region and what needs help.

Most importantly we need to hear from YOU!

We will meet with our health care system partners, talk with philanthropic and public sector leaders, and engage with neighborhood advocates from across the region to learn and report on what others see as the best opportunities and the greatest challenges to establishing a better system of care.

In the coming year, the way North Carolina pays for, delivers, and oversees care to more than a million North Carolinians eligible for Medicaid will change. “Medicaid Transformation” promises to bring about the most significant change North Carolina’s Medicaid program has experienced in nearly half a century. This change will have an enormous impact on providers and recipients of Medicaid services. But the shock waves of this change will impact our region in many other ways, including how we recruit and retain providers, how we educate recipients of care to take advantage of this new system, and how we coordinate services beyond direct clinical care to Medicaid recipients across our region. Thanks to a generous grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Care Ring will lead a community education and engagement campaign in the Charlotte region to prepare for this seismic shift, which we will document and share widely over the coming year.

We know there are many remarkable community health projects and interventions that have started in recent years, and we want to learn more about these efforts, document their impact, and share their successes with others. This includes the ONE Charlotte Health Alliance which is establishing new health access clinics and mobile medical units in neighborhoods with great needs in our community. Another example is the Healthy Opportunities pilot grant opportunity which, if awarded to our region, has the potential to pull together human, social service and health care providers in ways that have never been tried before.

Despite enormous winds of uncertainty blowing through our health care system these days –including the dramatic changes on the near horizon in how we deliver and pay for Medicaid, lack of clarity on the future of the Affordable Care Act and much more – we believe now is the time to step boldly forward in identifying, designing and establishing a better system of care that works for our region and most importantly works best for all of our residents.

We will document and share widely what we learn. This includes providing regular blog posts at this site, launching a new podcast on this effort (which will include interviews with community leaders and advocates with different ideas and perspectives on community health), assembling leaders from community groups so we can listen and learn about best practices, and much more.

We believe that working together with individuals and organizations from across the region we can create a much better system of care that improves the health and well-being of all of our neighbors.

Let’s get started!

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