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MetroHealth Launches New Institute, New Housing To Improve Health

MetroHealth CEO Dr. Akram Boutros announced the hospital's focus on addressing social determinants of health. (Photo: ideastream)
MetroHealth CEO Dr. Akram Boutros announced the hospital's focus on addressing social determinants of health. (Photo: ideastream)

At its annual meeting on Friday, MetroHealth System CEO Dr. Akram Boutros announced plans for several initiatives that focus on improving the neighborhoods around its clinics and addressing other conditions that affect a person’s ability to be healthy. He said MetroHealth will begin tackling the social determinants of health by providing housing, job training, and fresh food to the Clark-Fulton neighborhood surrounding the West 25 th Street main campus.

Boutros announced the launch of MetroHealth’s new Institute for H.O.P.E. (Health, Opportunity, Partnership and Empowerment), which will be based at the hospital’s main campus and provide resources to the neighborhood. The Institute for H.O.P.E. will be a five-year commitment, led by former Cleveland VA chief executive Susan Fuehrer.

The institute aims to tackle some of the root causes of poor health by building an Economic Opportunity Center, which would help neighborhood residents with job training, and providing fresh food, legal counseling, and financial literacy training.

MetroHealth will also build three new apartment buildings near main campus, which will include more than 250 units of low-income and market-rate rentals. The first floor of each building will be commercial space designed for restaurants, grocery stores, and job training programs. Construction is slated to begin in 2020.

In addition to the new construction, the hospital system will be offering up to 300 employees financial incentives to buy or upgrade a house in the neighborhoods of Clark-Fulton, Brooklyn Centre, Old Brooklyn, and parts of Tremont and Ohio City.

At the meeting, Boutros urged the audience to envision a better future for Cleveland's healthcare.

"A future where we do more than applaud medical care that’s administered after the fact," Boutros said. "A future where we provide care and support before people get sick, a future where Cleveland is more than a great city for medicine, a future where we’re a great city for health."

Preventing Social Problems That Lead To Health Problems

In an interview with ideastream, Boutros said it was time for major hospital systems in Cleveland to go outside their lane of medical care and address the social determinants of health, such as unsafe housing, food, poverty, and structural racism. In a recent City Club talk, Boutros discussed adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, as having a far bigger impact on health outcomes than medical care. It’s widely accepted in the public health field that about 80% of a person’s health is unrelated to direct clinical care.

“The majority of the focus is medical care,” Boutros said. “We think our focus should, and can continue to go, to meet our mission to go beyond medical care and look at all the things that are contributing to poor health outcomes in our community.”

He noted that while medical breakthroughs like face transplants are important, they impact only a small fraction of the population in need. MetroHealth, he said, is choosing to tackle many of the social impediments to healthcare to prevent illnesses before they start.

“When you actually look at the reasons that most people are non-compliant, they’re not stupid, self-destructive people who just say, ‘I don’t want to get better, I want to remain sick,’” said Boutros. “They’re non-compliant for rational reasons. And they’re non-complaint typically because they have significant obstacles that we need to help them with.”

“We believe not only will we be able to make the investment, but that return on that investment by us for patients we are taking financial risk for, is going to be multi-fold,” Boutros said.

Boutros added that MetroHealth expects to save 30% in total healthcare dollars within the next few years if it initiatives are successful.

lecia.bushak@ideastream.org | 216-916-6062