Shared Use and the Changing Role of Hospitals: Spotlight on Ohio

mikaelaPeople don’t know I wear an “S” on my chest, because that’s how effective I believe shared use practices can be. Yep I said it “I’m a Shared Use –Super Hero." And like any super hero,  we work with other caped crusaders. That’s why the spotlight this month is on Ohio’s efforts in the shared use world.

Often when we talk shared use, we talk about it within the context of school settings, which are natural starting places to look for great opportunities for communities to be physically active. But the potential world of shared use is bigger than just schools. In the South, we are seeing the exploration of shared use in churches and other faith based community facilities. In California, key leaders have discussed the opportunity to partner with school clinics or community clinics, to encourage patients to be more physically active at the school sites where the clinics are co-located. And now, we are collaborating with the Health Policy Institute of Ohio to explore the role of hospitals in increasing physical activity opportunities by opening up the facilities and other amenities in low-income communities.  

Amy Bush Stevens, Research, Evaluation and Policy Analyst at the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, sees a lot of potential for shared use practices in a hospital setting. “We envision a landscape where hospitals, along with schools and parks, are part of the community fabric and are engaged in their surrounding neighborhoods and towns to help make them become vibrant places where being physically active is easy, safe, and fun,” she explains.

When the Health Policy Institute of Ohio submitted their application for technical assistance to explore the potential for hospitals in Ohio to participate in shared use, I was genuinely excited, because this approach makes so much sense. As many hospitals and healthcare systems have shifted their focus beyond treatment and into the realm of prevention, there is an opportunity for hospitals to change how the community sees them.

Amy Stevens states, “Given that resources for prevention are limited, we are always looking for new ways to make the most of what we already have.”  The Centers for Disease Control has a Healthy Hospital Practice to Practice series highlighting hospitals that are supporting healthy eating and active living strategies, worksite wellness programs and other innovative ways of promoting health in the community. Amy points out:

“Here in Ohio, we are home to numerous excellent hospitals, and we know that many of them are exploring innovative strategies to better serve their surrounding communities. Hospitals often have fitness centers or multi-purpose rooms that may be open to the public, or may have walking paths on their campuses or space for indoor walking. These kinds of resources can provide much-needed opportunities for physical activity, especially in communities that lack safe places to play or walk.”

At the end of the day, shared use is about tapping into underutilized resources to create opportunities for physical activity for all community members. It's exciting to think outside the box about the role that hospitals can play in creating a healthier community.

What makes you a shared use super-hero? We'd like to hear your story!