Pursuing Health Equity through Communities of Solutions

As Methodist Healthcare Ministries continues to focus on efforts that promote health equity in the communities we serve across South Texas, one of the critical components to support resilient families and thriving communities within its service area across South Texas – are Communities of Solutions. 

What exactly is a Community of Solution? It’s defined as a framework that supports communities in cultivating behaviors, processes and systems that, over time, result in a culture of health and sustainable improvements in health, well-being and equity, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Methodist Healthcare Ministries has adopted this valuable framework to help address the challenges faced by the communities it serves – challenges like health inequity, social and economic injustice and structural racism. 

Jennifer Knoulton, vice president of regional operations at Methodist Healthcare Ministries, said, “Social determinants of health contribute more to health and well-being than quality clinical care — it is believed that no more than 20% of our health is due to clinical care. Health and well-being are strongly impacted by the strength of the vital conditions in our communities, things such as humane housing, reliable transportation, meaningful work and wealth, a sense of belonging and civic muscle and basic needs such as safety and nutritious food.”

She said Methodist Healthcare Ministries will provide support in their Communities of Solutions journey through coaching, resources and a learning collaborative, as it recognizes that communities in South Texas are faced with an abundance of health inequities which, for some, can be barriers to achieving health and wellness. 

“In order to improve the balance, various sectors in area communities will need to unite for change. One of these valuable sectors will be Community-Faith Connections—bringing in valuable insight from local church congregations into a Communities of Solutions learning collaborative. The Communities of Solutions and Community-Faith Connections are a way of connecting our neighbors to pursue their health and wellness,” said Knoulton. “These communities will have the opportunity to learn from and with each other, as they engage partners across these sectors, including residents with living experience of inequity which will enable them to learn, plan, and act together.”

Mickey McCandless, director of church connections at Methodist Healthcare Ministries, said, “Faith communities are instrumental contributors to growing a thriving community and have demonstrated to be vital contributors to human and community development, as they shift from charity to equity to liberation in their approach.” 

The Prosperemos Juntos | Thriving Together Learning Collaborative is the initial means by which Methodist Healthcare Ministries will support participants of Communities of Solutions and Community-Faith Connections, as they engage in community transformation and develop strategies to address social determinants of health, as well as root causes of inequity in their communities. 

Knoulton said Phase 1 of the Prosperemos Juntos | Thriving Together Learning Collaborative will bring interested communities together for peer learning, coaching, and monthly webinars to expand on skills in leadership, implementation, change management, collaboration and other critical areas. 

“Both Communities of Solutions and Community-Faith Connections are closely aligned with our strategic priorities which are, "Resilient Families" and "Thriving Communities," as they work to address systemic issues,” she said. “Our Community Grants and Policy and Advocacy teams are also working collaboratively within thriving communities to address larger systemic issues.”

She said Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ hope is to walk alongside communities as they become healthier places to live, work, play, and pray. 

“The residents in these communities know what has been tried in the past and are the most knowledgeable about what will likely succeed going forward,” explained Knoulton. “A Communities of Solutions framework acknowledges that while Methodist Healthcare Ministries can accompany communities in their journey toward becoming healthier places for all, true leadership for that journey must come from the people who call those communities home.”

She added that the Communities of Solutions approach will have a lasting impact in our communities for decades to come, as we diligently work together to further our mission of “Serving Humanity to Honor God.”

The Communities of Solutions work is expected to begin in March of 2021 through the Prosperemos Juntos | Thriving Together Learning Collaborative in various counties across South Texas. For more information about the application process, please send an email to ThrivingCommunities@mhm.org.