The Healthy Chester Coalition in Chester, Pennsylvania, is a forum that allows healthcare providers, community organizations, and public sector agencies to build relationships with one another and work together on projects that will lead to “better coordination of healthcare delivery and reduced costs due to improved efficiencies.”5 The Coalition originally formed, with guidance from the SC2 team, as a platform for connecting community- and faith-based organizations to the work other groups were doing around public health.
Public health was not an area of focus in Chester’s initial SC2 assessment or at the beginning of implementation. However, early in the process, the city’s Bureau of Health expressed an interest in expanding its role beyond that of a regulatory agency by creating a new Community Health Education Services Department to actively promote and encourage healthy lifestyles and behaviors.
In order to leverage existing resources in Chester and in coordination with the new department, the HHS team member began convening meetings among the Bureau of Health, healthcare providers, and community organizations. One city staff person mentioned, “The team member’s position with the federal government brought more people to the meetings than when [the city health commissioner] called a meeting on her own,” and, “The team member’s presence reminded the city that the White House was looking at Chester.”
Through this process, the SC2 team brokered new relationships, in particular, between Crozer-Keystone Health Systems and Widener University, two key anchor institutions in Chester. Other Coalition partners that long saw themselves as competitors began trusting each other and started sharing best practices. The meetings evolved into the Healthy Chester Coalition, which dedicated itself to promoting partnerships to effectively and efficiently deliver healthcare and social services to the city.
The HHS team member’s role in the Healthy Chester Coalition after the initial startup primarily involved providing technical assistance to the Coalition. For example, he helped a Widener University professor and students develop a resource guide that includes healthcare services and programs available in the city, and worked with Keystone Mercy Health Plan to secure a $10,000 grant to create a website for the resource guide that incorporates GIS mapping features.
The Coalition still meets regularly, on a biweekly basis, and has grown to include 45 to 60 organizations. In addition to providing a space to work on specific projects, it offers opportunities for training, networking, and sharing best practices. The group currently has three priority areas: 1) increase access to care; 2) develop public health outreach strategies; and 3) coordinate community health fairs.
5 SC2 monthly report, July 2012.