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The YMCA as an Accountable Care Organization member?

August 15th, 2017

A new look at a 170-year-old organization

It’s been awhile since I ‘ve written about Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs)  and Organized Systems of Care (OSCs), but I was reminded of their value recently as a result of a meeting I helped coordinate between the North Oakland Family YMCA and key stakeholders from the area it supports in Auburn Hills, Rochester/Rochester Hills and Pontiac. I wasn’t able to attend the meeting, but as a new board member of the organization I wanted to take on some action-oriented responsibilities immediately and sent two of my talented staff members as representatives in my absence.

With an initial goal of reinforcing to invitees that a supportive community is pivotal in the overall health and well-being of its residents, the meeting attracted attendees from higher education, elected office, a national healthcare system, community health, communications – and even veterinary medicine! (I wish we included members of the faith community as well; next time!) I think if we had positioned the meeting as a call to action for ACO or OSC awareness, it would have been cancelled due to poor response. Yet, look at the mission of the YMCA, a 170-year-old stronghold. With a commitment to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility, does this not sound very similar to the goals and spirit of the accountable systems of care model?

It’s the services and ‘providers’ that have positioned the YMCA as a vital community network through the generations. At every age and at every level of activity, Y members and program participants regularly cite the support and enthusiasm of fellow participants and certified staff as key factors in achieving their healthcare goals.

Through exercise, nutrition and other intervention programs, we have the extraordinary opportunity to capitalize on the diverse menu of programs that the YMCA offers to our community and integrate wellness initiatives that could help diminish the burden of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, into many of these programs. It’s time for the healthcare community and community influencers to ramp up these efforts. Again, I see POs as uniquely qualified to engage in this activity and help identify synergies between various community partners.

For example, Kevin Ball, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Health Sciences at Oakland University, was pleased to be invited to attend the YMCA meeting. By the end of the discussion, he was offering ideas on how OU students in a health sciences program could work with the North Oakland YMCA (they are literally across-the-street neighbors) to provide real-life experience in health sciences while also helping ease some of the part-time labor costs of the Y.

ACOs and OSCs were not formed to strengthen the bonds between the local YMCA and the community, yet what a powerful reminder of the role that community focused groups have to promote positive health choices, wellness and recovery by connecting members to appropriate health care networks. It’s a population health approach in its most basic terms.

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