The multistate healthcare system has committed upwards of $200 million through its Thriving Communities Fund to tackle housing stability and homelessness in the communities it serves.
Kaiser Permanente is taking the concept of providing care beyond the hospital walls to a new level with its $200 million investment in housing stability in the communities it serves.
Bechara Choucair, MD, Kaiser Permanente's chief community health officer, spoke with HealthLeaders Media about the initiative.
The following is an edited transcript.
HLM: Where will this $200 million go?
Choucair: We are not sure right now what the investments will be. What we know for sure is that they would be in communities where Kaiser Permanente exists. We have about 12.3 million members in communities where 65 million people live. We operate in eight states and the District of Columbia. As part of our community engagement effort we will identify the right opportunities to invest with a particular focus on housing.
HLM: How will it work? How will you know where to invest?
Choucair: Over the past year we've been engaging with many leaders in this space across the country, people who've been engaging in the development and preservation of affordable housing. There are going to be a wide variety of ways we can invest and leverage our dollars. We will likely be aggregating those dollars with other sources of capital that will be available for specific projects.
It's going to be on a case-by-case basis. That is why, as part of the process, we will be working with community-based organizations and partners that have identified the need and specific projects, and those projects will come through a pipeline to be evaluated and vetted for our Thriving Communities Fund.
There is an advisory committee that includes the senior leadership at Kaiser Permanente that will make the recommendations to invest or not invest in these opportunities.
HLM: So, you will be relying upon outside experts to identify your investment opportunities?
Choucair: Absolutely. The secret sauce is to identify the right partners who do this regularly. There are many community development finance institutions and developers who do this on a day-to-day basis as a core business and they aggregate funds from different sources and we will be working with them to ensure that the right investment opportunities are funded and developed and people have the ability to preserve or build additional affordable housing in our communities.
HLM: What is your return on investment in this?
Choucair: Housing stability is a key factor of what impacts health. We know that what impacts health happens in the communities where people live and the medical system has a lot to offer to advance and maintain health. At the same time, the individual behavior, the social factors, the economic factors, the built environments, all of those impact health. So if we can leverage that fund to invest in opportunities that will allow us to improve on housing stability in communities where we exist, that is the type of social returns that we would like to be able to see.
John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders.