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Delaware experts talk community health at Philly summit

Delaware Public Media

Health experts and developers from Delaware contributed to an economic summit in Philadelphia last week. The discussion was on opportunities for hospitals to fund initiatives that spur economic growth and create healthier communities.

Peggy Geisler is the Executive Director of the Sussex County Health Coalition. She spoke at last week’s Reinvest Philadelphia Summit on utilizing hospitals as anchor institutions for community health and development.  

She says clinical work inside hospitals only accounts for about 10% of a patient’s overall health.

“The other 80% to 90% is really around environmental support and environmental factors which the community is really responsible,” said Geisler. “So there has to be a synergy between the two to increase the health outcomes for any of the patients they’re serving.”

Geisler adds Sussex County has emerged as a leader in the state synergizing clinical practice with community health initiatives. One example she offers is embedding counselors in the emergency department at Nanticoke hospital to help navigate overdose patients to addiction treatment—a best practice adopted by the state’s overdose system of care.

“What we saw was a lot more people, when they came in, getting the support they needed and then also being transferred into a treatment center or some support center to help them with their addiction,” said Geisler.

Geisler commends initiatives like healthy neighborhoods through the Delaware Center for Health Innovation. But she adds there are more opportunities to scale community-driven initiatives statewide using hospitals as anchor institutions.

One example might be the work of Sarah Lester Director of Cornerstone West Community Development Corporation, and another speaker at the event.

She was able to tap Nemours Health system as one of the funders for her project revitalizing three Wilmington parks. She says data shows one park at the corner of 4th St. and Rodney St. being utilized three times as much since redevelopment.

“Just observationally, the way the park is being used there has been a change. There are lots of kids playing there all the time,” said Lester.

Both Geisler and Lester agree initiatives that create healthier environments also work to expand local economies.

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