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What's in a name? Plenty.
At Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH), we view our middle name as a promise. To us, "community" means we're the health safety net and a medical home for many who depend on us. Whether it's providing assistance to patients with financial difficulties, writing off costs for many who can't pay, or offering health education and free screenings to our neighbors, we are constantly addressing the needs of the communities we serve.
Recognizing our role as a vital healthcare resource, we work hard to address gaps in care and improve the health status of our community. We call it "community benefit." Here's how it helps all of us.
Through information gathered from surveys, assessments and dedicated Community Services staff, NCH develops innovative programs to address our community's unique healthcare needs.
From affordable community health clinics to educational health programs and counseling services to training the area's first responders, our commitment is to provide all individuals with access to quality healthcare services right here in the northwest suburbs.
Through our partnerships with local organizations, we work to provide access to different types of healthcare and educational programming for the community, including:
NCH also develops programs that provide outreach to vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the intellectually and developmentally disabled.
In 2011, NCH devoted $6.7 million to charity care, or financial assistance, for patients unable to pay their bills. "But there is so much more to community benefit than charity care," says NCH director of Community Services Karen Baker. In fact, charity care only accounts for about 8 percent of the $83 million that NCH devoted in benefits to the community last year.
Here's an at-a-glance look at how we've been living up to our name:
The success of the Promotoras de Salud program has translated successfully to another program with a Latino emphasis: NCH's Breastfeeding Initiative. "Breastfeeding—especially when it's the sole form of nutrition for the first nine months—reduces a baby's odds of becoming overweight by more than 30 percent," Baker says. The initiative aims to actively encourage long-term breastfeeding in both the hospital setting and the community. Peer counseling by trained, bilingual breastfeeding counselors, many of whom are already part of the Promotoras program, promotes breastfeeding to Latina mothers.
Nonprofit hospitals are required by law to report community benefit to the state and the federal government annually. At NCH, community benefit is simply part of the culture.
"We provide community benefit not because it's required but because we care. It's part of our mission to reach beyond our walls to those in need—to go above and beyond and make a tangible difference in people's lives. The word "community" truly defines who we are," Baker says.