Hospitals Building Healthier Communities: Embracing the Anchor Mission

David Zuckerman, with contributions from Holly Jo Sparks, Steve Dubb, and Ted Howard

The Democracy Collaborative’s latest report, Hospitals Building Healthier Communities, provides an in-depth look at six hospitals in five cities that are rethinking their economic and community engagement strategies. These hospitals have recognized that health is more than just treating the patients that come through their doors and are beginning to adopt an “anchor institution mission” that can help build not only more prosperous, but also healthier communities.

Detroit's "Big Three" are no longer Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. Today, its three largest private employers are instead Henry Ford Health System, Detroit Medical Center, and Wayne State University. Detroit is but one example of a massive shift that is taking place: nonprofit universities and hospitals have become the dominant economic linchpins in many communities across the country.

As we read Zuckerman’s landmark report, we can appreciate the power and possibility within a hospital anchor institution model. We can learn important lessons from those leading the effort, and share on how creativity can support models of health promotion, which promise to move us beyond the decaying economic model at present.

—Jamie Harvie, Executive Director, Institute for a Sustainable Future

Hospitals Building Healthier Communities is such an interesting and important report. It reminds me of the work of [community development pioneer] John McKnight several decades agothis could have just as lasting an impact.

Julie Trocchio, Senior Director, Community Benefit and Continuing Care, Catholic Health Association

This transformation brings with it important opportunities. Unlike highly mobile corporations, universities and hospitals are geographically “anchored” to their communities. America’s nonprofit hospitals alone have revenues of more than $650 billion and assets of $875 billion and are often situated in struggling neighborhoods.

Hospitals Building Healthier Communities provides case studies of hospitals and health systems beginning to grapple with the challenge of embracing an anchor institution mission. Those case studies, and other best practices compiled from across the nation, provide a resource for—and pose a challenge to—hospitals throughout the country. Its findings expand the conversation and should spur new strategic economic approaches not just by hospitals, but also local philanthropy, community-based organizations, and policymakers.

Read the 2-page report summary

Download the full report

Read report author David Zuckerman's op-ed in The Baltimore Sun (with Gar Alperovitz), "Going outside hospital walls to improve health"

If you'd like to purchase hard copies of the report:


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