Anchor Institutions: Best Practices to Address Social Needs and Social Determinants of Health

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“Anchor Institutions”—universities, hospitals, and other large, place-based organizations—invest in their communities as a way of doing business. Anchor “meds” (anchor institutions dedicated to health) that address social needs and social determinants of health have generated considerable community-based activity over the past several decades.

Yet to date, virtually no research has analyzed their current status or effect on community health. To assess the current state and potential best practices of anchor meds, we conducted a search of the literature, a review of Web sites and related public documents of all declared anchor meds in the country, and interviews with 14 key informants.

We identified potential best practices in adopting, operationalizing, and implementing an anchor mission and using specific social determinants of health strategies, noting early outcomes and lessons learned. Future dedicated research can bring heightened attention to this emerging force for community health.

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Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, Amy Bantham, MS, MPP, Alan C. Geller, RN, MPH, Mark A. Rukavina, MBA, Karen M. Emmons, PhD, Pamela Yatsko, MA, and Robert Restuccia, MPAHoward K. Koh, Amy Bantham, Alan C. Geller, Karen M. Emmons, and Pamela Yatsko are with the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA. Mark A. Rukavina and Robert Restuccia are with Community Catalyst, Boston, MA. “Anchor Institutions: Best Practices to Address Social Needs and Social Determinants of Health”, American Journal of Public Health 110, no. 3 (March 1, 2020): pp. 309-316.

PMID: 31944837