Kaiser Permanente invests 0 million to create more affordable housing

Kaiser Permanente invests $400 million to create more affordable housing

Kaiser Permanente is one of the nation’s largest healthcare organizations, well known for its integrated care networks, advanced medical services, commitment to cutting-edge healthcare technologies and continued investment in local communities.

His latest venture is through his Thriving Communities Fund, originally launched in 2018 with a $200 million endowment with the goal of creating affordable housing. Now, in its latest announcement, the fund has been doubled to $400 million, with a renewed commitment to the original mission.

Bechara Choucair, Senior Vice President and Chief Health Officer of Kaiser, explains, “By bringing together the capabilities of the health and investment sectors, Kaiser Permanente can strengthen neighborhoods, improve health and help communities thrive.

The press release further explains, “This step is part of Kaiser Permanente’s efforts to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on underrepresented communities, including low-income communities. and color, whose health and economic well-being have been hardest hit. […] Health care systems are uniquely suited to be impact investors, deploying their resources to reach upstream and shift the economic levers that drive community health. Directing investments into high-impact assets like affordable housing and local businesses has the potential to generate strong, long-term community health returns.

The move comes at a time when health organizations and experts are increasingly focusing on the social determinants of health (SDoH). Broadly, SDoH refers to “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes and quality of life”.

I’ve written before about SDoH and how organizations invest to address these factors. The reason for this new health systems engagement is simple: studies have repeatedly demonstrated that improving SDoH is a direct way to improve overall health outcomes for a given community.

In a landmark initiative called The EveryONE Project, the American Academy of Family Physicians explains, “Social non-medical needs, or social determinants of health (SDOH), have a great influence on an individual’s health outcomes. For the medical community to have a meaningful and lasting impact on the health of its patients and communities, it must meet the needs of patients outside the walls of the clinic. The effective implementation of programs to identify and address these social factors depends on the specific needs of the patient population, the ability of the practice to assess these needs, and the availability of community resources.

The value of SDoH addressing is obvious when properly parsed. For many patients who may not have easy access to reputable child care, or are dependent on an hourly wage, or do not have access to regular transportation, or who may not be assured of daily access to healthy food, health care can become a huge burden. Even something that millions of people take for granted, like seeing a primary care doctor, can get extremely expensive, let alone something as onerous as being able to afford lifesaving drugs. Now, if unaffordable housing is added to the picture, the problem is further compounded; to food, wage and health insecurity is now added the issue of housing security.

Housing insecurity is a serious problem and has become a significant scourge for millions of Americans. A recent article by Lucia Mutikani for Reuters explains that house prices continue to soar: “The median price of new homes in February rose 10.7% from a year ago to $400,600. House prices are up 31% from three years ago. Along with this price increase comes housing insecurity, especially in major metropolitan areas where rental prices have risen congruently.

Indeed, Kaiser is trying to play a part in solving one aspect of this pervasive conundrum, hoping to make investments in the right places to improve local communities. While home security is only one element of the larger SDoH umbrella, it is certainly one of the most critical elements, paying homage to a basic human need.

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