Advocate Aurora to invest $50 million to address health disparities

Will fund business development, affordable housing initiatives

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Advocate Aurora Health announced it will invest $50 million over the next five years to address disparities that affect health outcomes in Wisconsin and Illinois communities.

The Downers Grove, Illinois- and Milwaukee-based health care system said it will partner with community development financial institutions to fund various projects, including small and diverse business development, affordable housing expansion and investments in federally qualified health centers and food centers.

“There is a known correlation between income and health status of communities,” said Jim Skogsbergh, president and chief executive officer of Advocate Aurora Health. “That’s why we’re focused on empowering the people and neighborhoods we’re so privileged to serve and opening new doors that help distressed communities to join the economic mainstream. Putting our resources to use in a way that addresses the root causes of inequity and provides a gateway to prosperity is a testament to our commitment to helping people live well both within and beyond our walls.”

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The first investments in Illinois and Wisconsin organizations and businesses will be made in 2020. They will target low-income communities with lower life expectancy. The health system cited research indicating that factors outside the hospital walls account for up to 80% of health outcomes.

“By our very nature, hospitals and health systems are anchor institutions in the neighborhoods we serve, and the well-being of our communities will always be an institutional priority,” said Cristy Garcia-Thomas, chief external affairs officer for Advocate Aurora Health. “Through innovative and socially-responsible hiring, training, purchasing and investment strategies, we can improve the economic factors that impact upstream determinants of health and lift local residents to strengthen our communities.”

Other health systems have also launched initiatives to address social determinants of health in underserved communities.

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The Medical College of Wisconsin and Greater Milwaukee Foundation are partnering on a $100 million redevelopment project at the former Gimbels-Schuster’s Department Store building on King Drive, which will house the foundation’s office and MCW’s community engagement programs. The organizations say the project will allow them to address social determinants of health in a neighborhood where health disparities are acute.

Ascension Wisconsin is working on a multi-year effort to build out non-health care services at Ascension SE Wisconsin Hospital – St. Joseph Campus on Milwaukee’s north side to address health outcome disparities, including gun violence prevention, WIC services, opioid recovery, food for seniors and education for expectant mothers.

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