UnitedHealthcare launches community-based collaboration to improve outcomes

UnitedHealthcare has announced a community-based initiative, Community Catalyst, that convenes a broad range of community stakeholders to identify and address specific health care needs of members of the community and residents of publicly assisted housing who are often difficult to reach and serve.

UnitedHealthcare is expanding on its long-term collaboration with the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA) by engaging public housing agencies (PHAs), federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), and community-based organizations (CBOs) in their mutual commitment to serve as a catalyst to close gaps in care, address health equity challenges, and encourage a greater positive health impact in local communities. By blending clinical data with firsthand information from community members to identify health challenges, the initiative formally brings together local partners to develop a collaborative community plan to address needs and track progress and outcomes.

UnitedHealthcare and its partners will analyze claims, health care utilization and local data to identify communities with large racial and health disparities and challenges. Working together, Community Catalyst initiative partners will develop common goals and collaborative interventions that enable each organization to leverage its capabilities to address the local health challenge. These interventions will be customized to the community and may encompass food insecurity and diabetes management programs that can include trauma-informed care trainings, telehealth and virtual care services, multilingual educational materials, and social services wraparound support.

To date, the priority challenges identified include food insecurity, health disparities such as health literacy and maternal and women’s health, behavioral and mental health, homelessness, access to health care, and chronic disease and diabetes management.

“The needs of communities are as diverse as the communities themselves, and in order to best impact health outcomes in communities, we are creating approaches that are rooted in data and also reflect the perspectives of the people that live and work in the community,” says Catherine Anderson, senior vice president of policy and strategy, UnitedHealthcare Community & State. “By working closely with CLPHA, FQHCs, and CBOs, UnitedHealthcare is well-positioned to bring the right partners together to align primary and behavioral health with social needs, creating initiatives that not only improve health outcomes but also provide for equitable care for all.”

UnitedHealthcare and CLPHA announced the first cohort of PHAs with planned programs addressing challenges as identified in Akron and Columbus, Ohio; Austin and Houston, Texas; and Seattle/King County, Wash. A second cohort of public housing authorities now joining the initiative include Atlanta Housing Authority, Detroit Housing Commission, Indianapolis Housing Authority, Memphis Housing Authority, and New Orleans Housing Authority.

“UnitedHealthcare’s expansion of the Community Catalyst initiative to a second cohort of five additional housing authorities demonstrates the value of public housing authorities to reach low-income families and to provide support services to improve community and population health needs,” says Sunia Zaterman, executive director, Council of Large Public Housing Authorities. “CLPHA and our member public housing authorities are excited to work with UnitedHealthcare in this innovative and large-scale effort to bring together housing and health systems in an integrated approach.”

Additionally, UnitedHealthcare plans to launch similar initiatives partnering with FQHCs and CBOs to address community health needs in Phoenix, Ariz.; Maui, Hawaii; Baton Rouge, La.; Montgomery County, Md.; Detroit, Mich.; Jackson and Clay counties, Mo.; Hinds, Copiah, and Warren, Miss.; Chester, Pa.; Richmond, Va.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Las Vegas, Nev.; and Providence and Newport, R.I.

Research shows that 80 percent of an individual’s health is determined by what happens outside of a doctor’s office. There are specific local underlying causes that trend in a community and create complex health challenges and barriers for individuals and communities, such as: lack of safe and affordable housing, healthy food and financial stability. In the United States, there are more than 2 million people in public housing. Nationwide, children in subsidized housing have the lowest rate of enrollment into kindergarten.

FQHCs are rooted in local communities and critical to closing access gaps. In fact, 29 million Americans receive care at a FQHC each year, including one in 12 people and one in five people on Medicaid. FQHCs serve about 23 percent of UnitedHealthcare Community & State members at more than 1,300 clinics across the country. 

“UnitedHealthcare has provided ongoing support to our health center so we can better serve members of our community,” says María S. Gomez, president and CEO, Mary’s Center. “This initiative is an exciting next step in the journey of collaboration, bringing together the key players in the community to help bridge the gap for people with an array of social and health needs that must be met before we can see a marked improvement in the overall health of our communities.”

According to company leaders, the Community Catalyst initiative is part of UnitedHealthcare’s ongoing efforts to address health equity, promote positive health outcomes, and expand access to all. The company is also investing in programs and partnerships focused on food, transportation and social isolation, including $80 million to fight the pandemic and support vulnerable minority populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.