School-based healthcare, SNAP benefits, and more: The More for Memphis plan for Health & Well-Being

Over the next several months, the High Ground Team will be diving deep into the More for Memphis plan: What it is, why it is, and where it's taking us. This week, we take a look at Health & Well-Being, one of the six focus areas critical to the initiative's success.
Although each section of the More for Memphis strategic plan is important, it’s hard to argue that the health and well-being of its residents are vital. It’s a necessary baseline to any sort of success, whether individually, across a demographic, or an entire city.

The health and well-being focus area examines the factors behind physical, mental, and social wellness from a broad perspective. The health and well-being work group discusses healthcare access, welfare and social service programs, and other resources to improve public and mental health. 

The lead agency behind the workgroup is Common Table Health Alliance, a community-based, non-profit, regional health and healthcare improvement collaborative. In addition, the workgroup includes the following partners: Legacy of Legends CDC, Shelby County Health Department, Church Health, LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, Baptist Memorial Health Care, University of TN Health Science Center, and Youth Villages.

John Daniel is a retired executive and has been a board member of Seeding Success since 2017. Seeding Success is the nonprofit that coordinated the More for Memphis initiative. Daniel attended many meetings and participated in committees, including the health and well-being work group. He was a human resource executive for a major bank headquartered in Memphis which encouraged staff to be deeply involved in their community.
John Daniel.
As someone who considers themselves a ‘system thinker,’ Daniel knows many of the problems are not the cause of a person or a group of people who are bad, but rather, it’s a systems problem. In order to change the trajectory of Memphis, he believes the solution requires a systems approach to change. 

The health and well-being section narrows in on four separate goals. The first goal is to improve life expectancy and quality of life by increasing access to quality care for residents. To address this need, school-based health centers (SBHCs) will be implemented in the highest-need areas across Memphis. They will also expand community-based health worker pilots, working with community-based organizations.

The long-term outcomes include decreasing the prevalence of preventable and chronic illnesses, closing outcome gaps across demographics, and increasing life expectancy across the board. 

“We have an infrastructure of schools and are looking at how to turn the schools into community centers,” says Daniel. “There are several approaches underway in Memphis, in partnership with United Way and Seeding Success, to create capabilities in the school to touch lives right away. That’s something that is implementable right away with the investments we’re going to make and have a real immediate impact.”

Through the estimated $71 million funding, these school-based health centers will provide health screenings, primary care physician access, maternal and infant care, mental health care, and potentially lab work and pharmacy access. This care will help decrease preventable illness and infant and maternal mortality and increase life expectancy. 

Research stated in the strategic plan overview shows an evident community-identified lack of access. 15.8% of adults and 7.8% of children do not have health insurance, and there’s a shortage of primary care physicians with only one for every 2,090 residents. Black residents are two times more likely to be uninsured and Latinx residents are six times more likely to be uninsured. 

The first goal in the health and well-being section of the More For Memphis plan is to improve life expectancy and quality of life by increasing access to quality care for residents.
The second goal is to improve the health and safety of the environment Memphians live by moving the needle on environmental health measures. To address this need, the plan details an increase in testing of water, lead, and remediation of lead and other dangerous contaminants. 

The third goal is to ensure residents are able to live healthy lifestyles by increasing accessibility to and consumption of nutritional foods such as fruits and vegetables. To address this need, the plan includes an increase in healthy food through SNAP Double Up to purchase fruits and vegetables, and piloting micro-grocery store solutions. Research shows the real-life struggles of food insecurity with 31% of Shelby County residents living in a federally classified food desert. 

“The large grocery store chains tend to not be easily accessible to the most economically disadvantaged communities which also have all these health issues,” says Daniel. “You can go to these small food stores and get lots of processed food, but healthy and fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t as available.”

Part of the solution here is to encourage education and respect for agriculture, the growing cycle of food, and increased incentives to buy healthy food. The proposal would give expanded SNAP matching up to $40/month for families to use at local grocery stores, online delivery services, and farmer’s markets.

Increasing accessibility to nutritional foods such as fruits and vegetables will ensure that more Memphis residents can live healthy lifestyles.
The fourth goal is to close gaps in health outcomes for Black, Latino, and Native American people by understanding and addressing the drivers of disparities. The city and county recognize the vital need to address racism, defining it as a public health crisis. 

Daniel says the group wanted the proposed strategies that would lift up everyone whilst impacting the Black and Latinx communities particularly. Memphis is still reeling from the remnants of being a city with a long history of segregated schools and continual systemic racism. 

“There’s a lot of discussion about how we change the systemic structures of Memphis so that there’s more fairness in the investments we make in schools, healthcare systems, and food systems,” he says. “We got to where we were not because of the individual affairs of human beings, we got there because the systems worked against people.”

Just as this strategic plan took years to develop and hundreds of people behind the scenes, Daniel says implementing the plan will also take years. 

“It’s hard work, and it’s going to take time,” he says. “It’s not like there’s a date to start rolling stuff out and five years later, it’s all done. It’s an incremental process that happens at different levels of intensity across all six of the major initiatives.”
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