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King County Hospital for a Healthier Community

King County is home to many of the country's preeminent hospitals. In addition to providing safe and high quality care, these institutions have a long history of addressing our community's health through community benefit programs that promote health and healing as a response to identified community needs.

Joining forces

A collaborative of 12 hospitals and health systems and Public Health – Seattle & King County have joined forces to identify the greatest needs and assets of the communities they serve and develop plans to address them. Working together they can leverage their expertise and resources to address the most critical health needs in our county. A shared approach to community benefits avoids duplication and focuses available resources on a community's most important health needs.

Hospitals are 'cornerstone institutions'; they are major forces in the community and should work to improve conditions. They have influence.

—King County physician

Needs assessment

Members are working together to assess the greatest health needs and assets among communities in King County and will develop strategies to address them. The first collaborative report is presented here:

Report indicators and an expanded list of supporting indicators are available on our Community Health Indicators website:

"I don't think any family prefers to eat processed foods; but at certain times of the month, it's what's consumed because there are no funds to buy fresh produce."

—King County mother

Current priorities

Obesity and diabetes

More than half of King County residents are overweight or obese, and diabetes is one of the leading causes of death. Members already address these issues through screening, treatment and education programs.

As a first step together, they have pledged to increase access to healthy food and beverages inside their facilities.

Members of the HHC collaborative have adopted the Healthy Food in Healthcare pledge. In addition, 9 of King County's 12 hospitals and health systems have taken the next step and enrolled in the Healthier Hospitals Initiative Healthy Beverages Challenge, which calls on institutions to increase healthy beverage purchases by 20%. Each facility is working with its nutrition team to provide healthier options on its menus, use local ingredients, and provide education to employees, patients, and visitors. Members are adopting additional strategies to improve access to fruits and vegetables through Fresh Bucks, on-site farmers' markets, grocery store vouchers for produce, and free or low-cost food bags.

Coverage is Here King County Campaign

The first open enrollment period for new health insurance options took place in 2013 and 2014. Organizations in King County partnered on the Coverage Is Here King County campaign and, through their collective efforts, enrolled 195,000 residents in new coverage as of August 2014 (latest available data.) Each hospital in King County played a role in helping families access new free and low-cost health insurance options. Across all hospitals and health systems, more than 300 staff were trained and certified as In-Person Assisters (IPA) to help community members with enrollment in Medicaid or a Qualified Health Plan through Washington Healthplanfinder. County-wide, hospital staff enrolled over 13,000 individuals. Hospitals also publicized the opportunity to enroll through signage in their facilities, radio ads, websites, speaking engagements, and extensive workforce education. Early data suggest that the proportion of hospital patients with insurance coverage is increasing and use of charity care is declining. For more information, see the Coverage is Here, King County website.