During one of my first interviews for the Community Development Leader role with Iora Health, we primarily discussed creating a movement of healthier and socially connected older adults. I was attracted to this endeavor, but curious as to how a small company would set out to achieve this goal.
I quickly learned that Iora Health doesn’t want to simply provide primary care, but also aims to reach the greater communities which we’re a part of. It’s a funny thought – we don’t get paid to teach and engage with people who aren’t our patients, so why would an entire position be allotted to this work? But as we put it at Iora, we can’t transform healthcare by staying inside our own four walls. Instead, we encourage older adults to think about health in a different way, advocate for their own individual needs, and stand by others to help them work through the trials and tribulations of their healthcare journey.
As a Community Development Leader, I work at the intersection of creating meaningful partnerships between Iora and local community groups (e.g., senior living facilities, senior centers, nonprofits, and food banks). By working closely with our health care teams, we design programs such as Healthy Shopping on a Budget, Food as Medicine, Chronic Disease Self-Management, Stress Reduction, and various fitness programs that we host inside of our practices and out in the community. These programs are free of charge to attendees and help our partners achieve their goal of bringing their members together.
The question I often receive about the impact of my role is: how does this work bring people together to want to live healthier and more socially connected lives? The answer to this is demonstrated through a story about one of our locally hosted nutrition classes in which we met a woman who had recently lost her husband and was looking for tips on how to cook for one rather than two. She had many questions answered during the presentation but came up to us afterwards to ask more. It sparked a new class topic idea focused on shopping for affordable, healthy foods that we brought back to the senior center the next month. This woman attended, but also brought her daughter who helps her with her medical and financial health.
For numerous classes following these, we saw this family turn up. They expressed that prior to these classes they’d spent a lot of time Googling similar issues, but what they were missing from their searches was a personal dialogue around their individual health needs in order to set goals and action plans that were relevant and achievable. Through Iora, they were able to walk away with next steps that they could integrate into their daily lives.
This experience is exactly what we set out to achieve through our community development work: a doctor’s office reaching older adults with the help of our amazing community partners in order to encourage them to take charge of their personal healthcare journeys.