GHPC helped the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy develop a sustainability framework to evaluate the impact of rural health community investments.
Mellie Bridewell credits a sustainability workshop in Helena, Ark., for changing the trajectory of health care in southeastern Arkansas.
“I grew the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership from being a community network in a single county to now covering 14 hospitals in 22 counties in southeast Arkansas because of what I learned in that training,” says Bridewell, CEO of the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership.
From its inception, GHPC has provided support to rural communities to expand access to care for rural residents, develop rural health systems, and, ultimately, better the health status and well-being of rural populations. GHPC’s Sustainability Framework© provides a logical progression of activities to support communities in accomplishing their goals. It guides technical assistance around the areas of
- strategic vision
- relevance and practicality
- evaluation and return on investment
- efficiency and effectiveness
- organizational capacity
- resource diversification
Through tailored technical assistance GHPC helps communities and organizations position for long-term sustainability from the beginning — by cultivating a strategic mindset and building capacity for action.
“One of the great features of our community health funding is that it is noncategorical, meaning that the community decides what their greatest need is and then they design a project to address that need,” says Tom Morris, associate administrator for rural health policy at the Health Resources and Services Administration. “That is not the typical way grants run, but it was designed purposely to be flexible to meet the broad range of needs in rural communities.”
The challenge, Morris explains, comes in assessing the impact of the grantees when each is doing something a little bit different. It did not lend itself toward traditional performance measurement in a way that easily quantifies the impact.
“With GHPC, we hit upon this idea of sustainability. And now that’s the core performance metric for this program,” says Morris. “When you can tell somebody that you’ve invested $25 million or $30 million into community health projects and that 80% of them are sustainable beyond federal funding, that is a pretty powerful metric.”
GHPC’s Sustainability Framework© is built upon identified factors that drive organizational and programmatic sustainability. It provides a logical progression of activities to support communities in accomplishing their goals. It guides technical assistance around the areas of strategic vision, collaboration, leadership, relevance and practicality, evaluation and return on investment, communication, efficiency and effectiveness, organizational capacity, and resource diversification. Through technical assistance, GHPC works with communities to focus on these components that can then be integrated into partnership development and programmatic implementation plans.
What does a focus on sustainability mean for the people living in southeast Arkansas? In an effort to overcome known factors that affect access to care for rural patients — provider workforce shortages, geographical barriers, and other social needs — the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership has grown and broadened its efforts, which now include training and educating health care professionals, empowering patients and communities with education, and providing mental health and substance use treatment and prevention, as well as direct patient support and assistance services.
“Our goal is to ensure access to quality and local health care through collaborative efforts that strengthen the infrastructure and health care delivery system in rural Arkansas,” says Bridewell. “There is nothing in Arkansas, as far as rural health initiatives up to the state level, that we are not involved in. From state policy to implementing local projects, we provide support to all the hospitals and the 59 clinics in south Arkansas. We now strive to be a model for rural health innovation and collaboration across the state and nation.” ●●