Spectrum Health, Priority Health chosen for nationwide asthma initiative (MLive)

By Kyle Moroney

GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- Spectrum Health and Priority Health are among a handful of service providers – and the only ones in Michigan -- chosen for a nationwide health initiative that brings together private, public and nonprofit sectors.

The Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, a national nonprofit and a grantee of the Social Innovation Fund's Pay for Success program, and the Calvert Foundation announced on Tuesday, May 19, that five recipients will participate in their regional Pay for Success projects.

In West Michigan, Spectrum Health and Priority Health will work with Health Net, Asthma Network and Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan to conduct feasibility studies that fund home-based asthma interventions, including remediation of asthma triggers and resident education.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to make sure substandard housing does not result in children going to the hospital in West Michigan," Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan Executive Director Paul Haan said in a statement. "This project will make kids' houses healthier, and the financing strategy makes this work truly sustainable."

The healthy homes initiative – a national nonprofit dedicated to breaking the link between unhealthy housing and unhealthy families -- and Calvert Foundation will provide technical assistance to the participating organizations for the proposed projects. If successfully launched, anticipated project outcomes include reduced asthma-related hospitalizations, reduced emergency department visits, and ultimately, reduced healthcare costs.

The Pay for Success program brings together private, public and nonprofit sectors to solve a social problem, according to officials. A private investor provides up-front funding to finance nonprofit service delivery that benefits a healthcare entity, such as a local hospital.

Here's how it works: The healthcare provider repays the investors if the services reach the determined outcomes. If they are not achieved, the payer does not pay, so the investor bears the highest risk. These projects are based on the asthma-focused PFS work being explored in Baltimore through a partnership with GHHI, Calvert Foundation and Johns Hopkins Hospital and Healthcare System.

"We have long recognized that access to high quality healthcare is not the sole determinant of health. In fact environmental factors, socioeconomic factors and others play important roles," said Priority Health Associate Vice President of Medical Affairs John L. Fox, MD. "Priority Health, with the help of private investors and community partners, is widening its efforts to improve health by tackling those physical and environmental factors that impact pediatric asthma patients in particular.

"If we are able to improve a child's health through home renovations thereby reducing emergency room encounters and hospitalizations, then Priority Health experiences lower costs and in turn uses those savings to reimburse the private investors," Fox added.

Additional projects selected for regional Pay for Success grants include:

• Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc. and Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, New York 
• Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis, Tennessee 
• Salt Lake County Office of Regional Development, Salt Lake County, Utah
• Partners for a Healthier Communities' Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition in Springfield, Massachusetts

Kyle Moroney covers suburban schools and general assignments for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email her at kmoroney@mlive.com or follow her on Twitter or Facebook