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'Health Village' Proposal Sparks Discussion in D.C.

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Amid a changing health care landscape and a multiplicity of community needs, a “health village” may be on the horizon for Providence Health System in Washington, D.C.

The health village would be a walkable, multiuse area that provides both health and nonhealth services on the campus of Providence, which is part of Ascension, the nation’s largest nonprofit and Catholic health system. There is no firm timetable to develop the health village, but elements could include:         

  • A transformed approach to acute care delivery incorporating rightsizing of emergency care capabilities, paired with the addition of urgent care services and a focus on select medical and surgical services.
  • Primary care, specialty care, ambulatory surgery, telehealth/virtual care, diagnostic services and pharmacy services.
  • Expanded post-acute care working with Carroll Manor, Providence’s skilled nursing and rehabilitation center; Ascension Living, which operates senior living, assisted living and long-term care communities; and Ascension At Home, Ascension’s home care partnership.
  • Partnerships with other organizations to offer services not traditionally considered part of health care but that have an impact on the health of individuals and communities.
  • Recreation, green space and/or walking trails.

To determine how Providence can meet D.C.’s health and wellness needs in a sustainable way, the health system assessed the current and future availability of health services in the region and its own neighborhood. Providence took into account the health and income disparities of those served by the health system, as well as population growth and movement and changes in consumer behaviors.

Darcy Burthay, Providence Health System president and CEO, notes that health status is profoundly influenced by social determinants, and says the health village would address service gaps in such areas as prevention of health problems and coordination of care. The transformation will require a greater emphasis on “ambulatory care-sensitive conditions that are preventable through timely and appropriate primary care and wellness services,” she says.

Working with civic and community leaders and members of the community, Providence says the health village concept will be developed over time with a vision of creating an innovative plan consistent with community needs. 

The health village discussions have included a representative of the District of Columbia Hospital Association; D.C. Department of Health and Department of Behavioral Health; other health care provider leaders; physician leaders; and members of the Daughters of Charity, the historic religious sponsors of Providence.

“Our community would clearly benefit from a new approach that emphasizes … a focus on prevention and wellness. I believe D.C. and our leaders will embrace new models that remove inequities and disparities to health and provide new opportunities for our residents,”  says LaQuandra Nesbitt, M.D., director of the D.C. Department of Health.

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