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Board Interaction in the Community


Clint Maun, CSP

The board members of a healthcare organization need to be actively involved in the processes that help keep the organization moving forward. One significant way the board can be involved is in positive community interaction.

Remember that in positive community interaction, you must emphasize the "positive." Community involvement resulting in negative relationships and communications can be destructive to the board's effectiveness. While board members have a responsibility to reach out to the community and listen to genuine concerns, they must avoid being pulled into nonproductive conversations with people in the community who merely want to complain about some inconsequential issue related to the healthcare organization. Board members have a duty to bring valid issues to the board "and provide advice based on what they hear in their own discussions with the public." (Public Involvement Techniques)

Positive community interaction by board members often involves utilizing their contacts in the community to help in areas such as marketing, occupancy development, and program explanation. Many board members have the ability to make contacts with economic development officials and other people in the business community who could make a substantial difference in tooting the horn of the organization. Board members "serve as informed spokespersons for an agency's programs. [They] ... host public meetings, speak to other organizations, and attend neighborhood events." (Public Involvement Techniques) Case studies have shown that board members do indeed carry influence with the chamber of commerce and other economic development forces to assist in obtaining grants and other types of state and federal monies for the development and expansion of business for the healthcare organization.

Board members can make a difference in both the healthcare organization and the community. If they sit on other boards for businesses or community development, they need to be proactive in working with those boards to ensure that the benefits from the presence of the healthcare organization in the community are clearly understood. "By networking with community, civic and business organizations, physicians groups and public officials . . . [board members] can inform and educate community leaders who play a role in shaping public opinion and demonstrate positive outcomes" resulting from the presence of the healthcare organization. (Practice: Community Outreach)

These relationships are instrumental in ensuring understanding of the importance of healthcare organizations to the economic health of the community. Healthcare organizations are significant employers in any community. Additionally, many healthcare organizations are enlarging existing programs and initiating new ones, bringing the need for expanded staffs. This situation stands in sharp contrast to many other businesses that are shrinking, retracting, or moving toward computerization, thereby diminishing the workforce. Healthcare organizations have the opportunity to help "communities achieve healthy, sustainable growth" by adding jobs, growing the tax base, developing community programs, and enhancing overall business success for the community. (A Community Benefits Report)

Many communities take their healthcare organizations for granted, often assuming they will always be there to provide health services. In fact, the community as a whole sometimes fails to comprehend the important role the healthcare organization plays to create a better community, not just in the physical health of its citizens, but also in its economic health.

Job creation and retention, for instance, is a significant issue in any city or town. The community needs to play a role in helping healthcare organizations attract qualified workers, welcome new residents to the community, and be part of programs to draw healthcare professionals to the community. And active participation by board members of the healthcare organization can play a major role to ensure the community's support.

Board members have the responsibility to be involved in the day to day activities necessary to ensure that the community is able to bring important issues to the healthcare organization. In return, the community has a responsibility to look for positive ways to be involved with the healthcare organization and helping it succeed.

That partnership is a major component of community involvement that the board members of healthcare organizations must be ready to take on.

Works Cited

"A Community Benefits Report: 2005." The University of Texas Medical Branch, Office of Community Outreach. 2005.

 

"Practice: Community Outreach." APA Online. American Psychological Association. 2006.

 

"Public Involvement Techniques for Transportation Decision-Making: Citizens on Decision and Policy Bodies." Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation. September 1996.

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