The RAND Corporation:
Building a Framework for a Better Approach to Community Health
The RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and analysis organization, is dedicated to objective research that informs the work of decision-makers across sectors. In its Social and Economic Well-Being division, researchers are committed to building safe, healthy, and thriving communities, developing innovative solutions for such wide-ranging challenges as income inequality, meeting the needs of aging populations, ensuring quality of life for children and families, substance abuse, mental health, maternal and infant health, and societal impacts of new technologies. They also work across systems, bringing together health care, behavioral health, and community-based human services.
During its own strategic planning in 2020, the Foundation will focus on health and human services, categories that in the past, it considered to be two separate and distinct entities. In recent years, however, the lines between these two areas have blurred as health care providers increasingly seek to assess and address patients’ “social determinants of health” to achieve positive health outcomes and reduce health care costs. The Foundation refers to these social supports—housing, food, and others—as human services.
Although the trend to bundle health and human services has gained traction in other parts of the country, the Foundation’s work with RAND on infant mortality indicates there is virtually no communication among health care and human services providers in Pittsburgh. As a result of this gap, health care and human service providers in the region have had limited ability to collaborate in a more comprehensive approach that uses predictive analytics, shared data, innovation, and organizational change to address emerging and chronic health conditions among at-risk and vulnerable populations.
With a Foundation grant of $300,000, RAND will develop a strategic framework to integrate the Foundation’s grantmaking to support health together with human services. To craft this framework along with a plan to implement it and measure its success, RAND will evaluate the Foundation’s current and prior grantmaking portfolio and scan existing frameworks, measures, and integration efforts in health and human services—both locally and nationally. RAND will align its research with tools and technologies being used elsewhere in the country, as well as with strategies focused on social determinants that are emerging in the State of Pennsylvania, at UPMC, and within the Highmark and AHN networks. Finally, RAND will explore how the Foundation can stay ahead of community-health issues related to human services—opioid addiction, infant mortality, asthma and other conditions—before they reach a crisis level or epidemic proportions.