Part of the responsibility of a community hospital is to help improve the community it serves, and Tanner Health System has taken that mission to heart.

The health system, about an hour west of Atlanta, faces many problems prevalent in the South and other parts of the country: Fried foods are popular, cancer is an issue, and hypertension is a problem, says Loy Howard, CEO of Tanner Health System.

In 2012, the Get Healthy, Live Well program — comprising 24 subgroup task forces and more than 160 local, state and national partners — was launched to tackle these issues.

“Like all hospitals, we realize we have to try to improve outcomes and the overall health of the community outside the walls of the hospital and outside of our clinics. We have to change the environment that our patients go back to," says Howard.

A 2012 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped to kick-start the program, which has seen 543 individuals volunteer since its launch in 2013. The program is still young, but Tanner has seen progress in partnering with others in the community such as schools, faith-based organizations, civic groups and many others to change the habits of residents.

“We’re moving away from the traditional hospital wellness model and building partnerships and expertise with community-based groups that have an interest in developing programs that have the depth and sustainability to make meaningful, lasting change in our region’s health,” says Denise Taylor, senior vice president and chief community health and brand officer for Tanner.

In 2013, a 12-week communitywide weight loss challenge was piloted, and 1,400 participants lost an average of 10.6 pounds. The following year, 1,700 participants lost an average of 7.7 pounds. 

GHLW has also expanded access to evidence-based programs like Kids N Fitness, a family-centered weight management program developed by a team of doctors and health professionals with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for overweight and obese children ages 8 to 16 and their parents.

Similar programs are offered to help prevent and control diabetes and other chronic diseases throughout Tanner’s primary service area of Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties, which all rank above the national average for adults diagnosed with diabetes.

Key partnerships through schools, business and industry, and faith-based organizations have allowed GHLW to reach community members across multiple sectors. One example of a key partnership: GHLW has equipped churches with toolkits, instructor training and technical assistance toward the development of policy, system and environmental changes. Connecting faith with prevention and health has had impressive results.

Another key partnership has been with area school systems. GHLW teamed up with Power Up for 30, part of the Georgia Shape program that encourages elementary schools to incorporate 30 extra minutes of physical activity into each day. To reinforce healthful initiatives, GHLW has developed multiple nutrition and physical activity programs for families. The Menu It app even provides information on healthful food choices at local restaurants.

Recognizing the need for chronic disease management and prevention, GHLW has partnered with physician practices to develop a community clinical linkages model for referring individuals with diabetes and hypertension, as well as other chronic conditions, to evidence-based community health programs. GHLW provides updates to physicians on patient referrals, progress and outcomes. The evidence-based programs selected by GHLW have been shown to reduce hospitalizations and readmissions.

“When you hear the personal impact that Get Healthy, Live Well has had on individual lives, you know you’re truly making a difference,” says Taylor.

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Pictured: Tanner Health System's Power Up for 30 program encourages kids to incorporate 30 extra minutes of physical activity into each day.

About the award

Each year, the American Hospital Association honors up to five programs led by AHA member hospitals as “bright stars of the health care field” with the AHA NOVA Award. Winners are recognized for improving community health by looking beyond patients’ physical ailments, rooting out the economic and social barriers to care and collaborating with other community stakeholders. The AHA NOVA Award is directed and staffed by the AHA's Office of the Secretary. Visit www.aha.org/nova for more information.