Just 20 miles separate Sacramento’s UC Davis Health from the Davis campus. For many employees, the trip across the Causeway is their daily commute. However, for the residents of the Oak Park community surrounding our medical center, those 20 miles represent a 10-year difference in life expectancy.
Poverty, unemployment, underperforming schools and lack of adequate housing have had a significant impact on the health outcomes of the residents in Oak Park, including a disproportionate burden of diabetes, injury, asthma, strokes, and mental health illnesses. UC Davis Health is working to address these social determinants of health through its Anchor Institution Mission (AIM) for Community Health.
AIM for Community Health seeks to harness the advantages of being Sacramento County’s second-largest employer to increase community wealth-building and strengthen the social infrastructure for the communities in our vicinity. The areas surrounding the Sacramento campus have been underserved for decades; AIM is just one way UC Davis Health is working to reverse systemic/structural racism and discrimination, in close allyship with impacted communities.
“By addressing these social determinants as an institution, we amplify our impact beyond the bedside and improve the overall health of the community,” said Hendry Ton, Associate Vice Chancellor for Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at UC Davis Health. “We have to re-envision our role and partnerships in the community in the context of health equity. And that means expanding our presence in community defined spaces – community centers, schools, people’s homes and even at peaceful demonstrations and marches – to foster trusted partnerships that address the serious effect of social determinants of health.”
The central pillars of the AIM strategy include:
- Hiring locally - hire and develop local talent.
- Purchasing locally - purchase more goods and services from local vendors and historically underrepresented communities.
- Investing locally - invest portions of endowments into projects in vulnerable communities
- Volunteering locally - engage employees to volunteer in local neighborhoods.
To realize success in these areas, we are developing local partnerships with organizations like Opening Doors, Inc., which supports newcomers to the United States - immigrants, asylees, refugees and others – on their pathway towards stability, self-sufficiency and belonging.
Most recently, UC Davis Health provided a grant that allowed Opening Doors to work with independently owned ethnic markets to provide vouchers – an alternative to gift certificates, which were not offered by the markets – to 42 low-income families, representing 200 individuals. By working with those markets, Opening Doors was able to provide culturally appropriate food, while also supporting local small businesses.
“For refugees and immigrants, much like other vulnerable groups, the COVID-19 pandemic has become an economic crisis in addition to a public health crisis. We estimate that 43% of all Opening Doors’ clients have experienced layoffs or hour reductions, which compromises their ability to cover their most basic food needs,” said Jessie Tientcheu, Chief Executive Officer, Opening Doors. “UC Davis Health has been an important partner in supporting some of Sacramento’s most vulnerable residents to survive both the financial and health impacts of the pandemic.”
In addition to partnering with organizations like Opening Doors, the AIM strategy includes aligning with initiatives such as Aggie Square that increase the economic vitality of our local communities and region. Additionally, we are engaging the health campus community in this effort. Examples of this engagement include working with procurement to increase local purchasing of goods from women, and/or minority owned businesses. For every dollar that we spend in the local economy, the community sees a return of as much as $1.45. Economists call this the local multiplier effect; we see it as a highly impactful way to invest in the health and future of our communities.
To learn more, join us on Friday, Feb. 25 at the UC Davis Health Virtual Small and Diverse Supplier Expo. This event aims to promote awareness of small and diverse suppliers in the Davis and Sacramento areas and build understanding of how UC Davis departments can do business with them.