Promoting a culture of health: Board involvement

Improving health in communities has gained in interest and momentum. To take on local needs, health systems and public health entities are forming collaborations with others. The webcast Unique insights and approaches to population health highlighted the findings of a study of 12 such collaborations.

The basis for the webcast is the study Improving Community Health through Hospital-Public Health Collaborations, released in late 2014. The webcast provides proven recommendations for hospitals and health systems to consider for their current or potential partnerships. Leading the webcast discussion were the study’s principal investigator Dr. Lawrence Prybil, the Norton Professor in Healthcare Leadership and associate dean of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, and study contributor and Grant Thornton LLP Health Care National Managing Partner Anne McGeorge. The webcast moderator was John Summerlin, senior manager in Grant Thornton’s Health Care Advisory Services practice.

This section of the webcast Q&A explains the reasons that boards should establish a standing committee focused on improving community health.

Recommendation #10 If they have not already done so, the governing boards of nonprofit hospitals and health systems and the boards of local health departments should establish standing committees with oversight responsibility for their organization’s engagement in examining community health needs, establishing priorities, and developing strategies for addressing them, including multisector collaboration focused on community health improvement.

What involvement do the boards of these hospitals and community health systems have in the partnerships, and how supportive have they been in the partnerships they’ve been in?


All of these partnerships have hospital partners. And all of the hospitals’ partners have board support for their engagement. Some have demonstrated tremendous leadership.

Our team believes that every health system and hospital, and every public health department, should establish a standing board committee focused on improving community health.

Anne, as a partner at Grant Thornton, you’ve got relationships at the board and executive level with a variety of health systems up and down the East Coast and across the country. What are you seeing our hospital clients doing in terms of their board activity and involvement in these community health improvement projects?

A strategic initiative McGeorge: A lot of the boards several years ago began thinking about more involvement with community benefits. The Form 990 requires hospitals to quantify their level of community benefit. That information is public, and it became much more visible. A lot of the boards recognized the importance of quantifying, measuring and reporting community benefit, and at that time formed board committees focused specifically on community benefits. The ones that did are further down the road as this effort is gaining so much more visibility within the health system. And it’s become more of a strategic initiative.

Some have more informal committees. One of our hospital clients has committees made up of stakeholders in the community and a public health representative, which is a fabulous way to further the initiative.  

The Catholic Health Association has a great example of a charter for a particular committee. You can think about forming this kind of committee; there are tools in the public domain to help you put some structure and objectives around the committee.

See Promoting a culture of health for the introduction to the Q&A. See also the study report, Improving Community Health through Hospital-Public Health Collaborations.