The Population Health Model: A Timely Approach for Mission Hospitals
Mission hospitals have long provided a source of care, healing, and spiritual support for populations around the world, often serving the disadvantaged and rural residents not served by other facilities. Yet the future of mission hospitals has been thrown into doubt, and options for repurposing these institutions must be explored. The approach of mission hospitals to healthcare delivery has historically differed from those of other health systems (including many faith-based facilities) due to their isolated locations in lower-income countries. The multi-purpose attributes of mission hospitals make them excellent candidates for adopting a population health approach. The population health model, as now being developed in the United States, represents a radical departure from traditional clinical practice and reduces the system’s dependence on clinical care as a means to improving community health. The population health model emphasizes treatment of populations rather than individuals, a holistic approach to the provision of care (addressing social determinants in the process), and the involvement of the community in multi-sector collaboration for collective impact. Mainstream hospitals have had difficulty in implementing a true population health model for a variety of reasons, but mission hospitals appear to represent an effective vehicle for putting this model into practice. A population health approach appears to complement the philosophy of mission hospitals, and mission hospitals appear positioned to advance the population health movement.
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