Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and 11 other health systems have signed an Impact Purchasing Commitment and backed it with a joint five-year, $1-billion pledge to bolster small businesses hit especially hard by economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The goal of the Healthcare Anchor Network’s commitment is for the health systems to use their power as anchor institutions in their communities to help build and support healthy, equitable, and climate-resilient local economies, and improve overall community health and wealth by increasing spending on local, minority, women-owned, and other small businesses and enterprises.
The commitment, designed by the HAN in partnership with Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth, is an agreement to shift procurement strategies and spending, including with minority and women-owned business enterprises as well as local and employee-owned, cooperatively owned, and nonprofit-owned enterprises.
The institutions also agree to work with at least two of their large existing vendors to create hiring pipelines in the disinvested communities that they serve.
Additionally, the Healthcare Anchor Network pledge-signers commit to adopting sustainable procurement goals, which help build additional momentum garnered by hospitals that are part of the Practice Greenhealth network. It is committed to purchasing goods and services that minimize damage to health and the environment.
“We know we have a sacred mission to provide the highest quality of care to every individual we serve, but we must challenge ourselves to do more,” says Wright L. Lassiter III, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System.
Lassiter oversees a $6.6 billion integrated health system comprised of five acute care hospitals, three behavioral health facilities, a regional health plan and a wide range of ambulatory, retail and other health services consisting of more than 250 locations across Michigan and 33,000 employees.
Lassiter has recommitted to Henry Ford’s investment in improving communities, especially those most affected by inequities, injustice, and lack of opportunities.
“For our communities to achieve true health and wellness, we have to be willing to authentically and courageously address systemic racism and other barriers that prevent equity for all,” he said. “We are proud to support this deeper commitment to employment opportunities and support for minority owned businesses that will have a meaningful impact on the health or our communities.”
Joining Henry Ford in the pledge to reach small businesses are: Advocate Aurora Health, Baystate Health, Bon Secours Mercy Health, Cleveland Clinic, CommonSpirit Health, Intermountain Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, Providence, Rush University Medical Center, Spectrum Health, and UMass Memorial Health.
It is estimated that roughly one in five, or 420,000, small businesses have closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The closures have disproportionately impacted small businesses owned by immigrants, women, and Black, Latinx, and Asian individuals. All have experienced higher rates of closures and sharper declines in cash balances.
The number of Black business owners decreased by 41 percent, Latinx business owners by 32 percent, and Asian business owners by 26 percent. Immigrant business owners decreased by 36 percent and women business owners by 25 percent. The loss of jobs and wealth to workers and business owners is devastating as these businesses generate local jobs and contribute to a healthy, thriving community. Losses of small and MWBE businesses also have a massive impact on broader racial inequality and health equity.
“Health systems are uniquely positioned to have positive impact as leading employers and economic engines in their communities,” says David Zuckerman, executive director of the Healthcare Anchor Network. “In addition to providing quality health care, they can leverage institutional resources, including almost $500 billion in annual spending, to help address the economic, racial, and environmental resource disparities that impact community health outcomes.”
Prior to COVID-19, which shined a more revealing light on disparities and inequities in community health and wealth, Henry Ford had long committed to creating and investing in solutions to economic barriers and other social determinants of health that contribute to poorer health outcomes, less access to healthcare and economic opportunities and social injustices.
Henry Ford was a founding member of the Healthcare Anchor Network in 2016. Since then, it has grown to more than 60 health system members. Together, member hospitals and health systems employ more than 1.5 million people, purchase over $75 billion annually, and hold more than $150 billion in investment assets.