No Sector Is an Island: Fostering Collaborations Across Different Services to Improve Health Outcomes

Eighteen months ago, in response to the increasingly clear, causal connections between financial well-being, physical and mental health, Prosperity Now laid out a vision for how our field of financial capability practitioners and researchers can work with health stakeholders to advance the idea that financial well-being should be considered a core component of health. 

Since that time, we have convened the Medical Financial Partnership (MFP) Learning Community that provides a space for financial capability practitioners and health providers to learn about and explore the emerging field of partnerships that seek to improve both the health and financial well-being of a population. 

Through the MFP Learning Community, we’ve learned about organizations like Streetcred, which provides free income tax preparation in the pediatrician’s waiting room; and DotHouse Health, which has integrated several financial capability services into its Community Health Center. We’ve heard from experts at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Toronto’s Upstream Lab about how they are building evidence around the efficacy of MFP interventions. It has been an honor to learn about and collaborate with people leading this sea change in practice across the country. We look forward to digging deeper with this inspiring group, honing practice and scaling successful models. 

Our vision has been to explore and foster cross-sector collaborations at multiple levels: on-the-ground practice, coalitions, policy and systems. It’s time for Prosperity Now to catch up with new innovations and broaden our vision to not only include cross-sector collaborations between health and financial stakeholders, but multi-sector collaborations. 

Why? Financial well-being is deeply connected to so many other social determinants of health—from housing to education to healthcare to the workplace—and interventions seeking to address multiple determinants can have great impacts on population health. 

To cite an example from the asset-building field, Earn to Learn matches the savings of low-income, predominately first generation, youth to help them get into and graduate from Arizona universities with little to no debt while also finding careers. This intervention combines many social determinants of health, including education, socioeconomic status and employment to help a vulnerable population get ahead. 

While not a health-focused program, initiatives like Earn to Learn by virtue of addressing factors that affect health can help us improve broader health outcomes when brought to scale. Since we know that educational achievement leads to lower behavioral risk factors, greater life expectancy, and higher employment rates and incomes, how can we bring the health sector into this kind of model? 

Earn to Learn is just one example. What other innovative collaborations can we foster to design and deliver new programs, policies and systems to improve population health? How can we work with insurance providers, public health agencies, housing agencies, community development financial institutions, educational systems, workforce development leaders and an endless list of others, to advance a holistic view of health? Initiatives like the LISC/ProMedica partnership in Toledo, which is combining fresh foods, healthcare delivery, financial capability services, workforce development and other features to improve population health, are giving us an innovative roadmap, and there is so much more to explore. 

We will be tackling the question of how to advance not just cross-sector, but multi-sector, solutions to address some of our country’s most entrenched problems at this year’s Prosperity Summit, and we hope you’ll join us for this conversation! 

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