Gotham Gazette

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Leveraging the Power of Health Care Spending to Build Community Wealth in Brooklyn

Local health care spending spurs economic activity (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)

As leaders of two of Brooklyn’s largest health systems – representing six hospitals, employing almost 14,000 individuals, and with combined non-personnel spending of over $655M per year – we understand firsthand the role healthcare institutions play in supporting the health and wealth of our communities. This is why we have made an unprecedented commitment to procure 10% of our non-clinical goods and services from local minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs) by 2030.

According to a new report by non-profit Brooklyn Communities Collaborative, our joint commitment has the potential to generate $35-40 million in new annual revenue for local businesses.

Hospitals are inextricably linked to the communities they serve, creating a virtuous circle that strengthens health systems and the neighborhoods around them. As two of the largest private employers in Brooklyn with significant spending power, anchor institutions like ours can help level the playing field and catalyze local economic growth.

Healthcare makes up nearly 20% of the U.S. economy. In New York State alone, healthcare accounts for 10% of annual GDP, and continues to experience record job growth as its fastest growing industry. Given their tremendous economic importance, healthcare systems and hospitals have the unique ability to drive economic opportunity at-large and for emerging and established MWBEs.

Leveraging the economic power of hospitals to generate local wealth is a key lever to address structural drivers of poor health. We know that individuals’ zip code affects their access to quality education, housing options, rent levels, exposure to violence, crime, and toxins, as well as levels of social capital – all of which are key determinants of health. Addressing non-medical needs significantly improves individual and population health, and placing an emphasis on such initiatives is just as imperative to our communities’ wellbeing as improvements in medical care.

The recent report released by Brooklyn Communities Collaborative notes that local procurement can generate twice as much recirculation of revenue in the local economy and up to double the number of jobs per dollar of non-local procurement. Brooklyn hospitals alone yield up to $2 billion in spending power annually — an opportunity for transformation we cannot afford to overlook.

Targeted procurement has the potential to make a transformative impact across the city, particularly in Brooklyn, where more than 50% of households of color would be unable to make ends meet if their income is interrupted. But make no mistake, procurement in itself is not a panacea. Creating a more equitable economy will take a number of strategic interventions, analysis of successes and challenges, and the flexibility to adapt to bumps in the road.

Today, we are focused on working directly with businesses to identify issues and develop targeted solutions. We will share advice on penetrating and navigating the hospital procurement market, work with community organizations to create bridge loans and develop the local workforce, and help these businesses scale and manage the procurement process from start to finish.

Together, we can build healthy communities, generate economic opportunity and continue to provide high-quality patient care.

LaRay Brown is the CEO of One Brooklyn Health, which includes Interfaith Medical Center, Brookdale Hospital, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, two large nursing homes, and several ambulatory care centers. Kenneth D. Gibbs is the CEO of Maimonides Health and serves as the Chairman of the Board of the Greater New York Hospital Association and Chair of the Board of Healthfirst. On Twitter @BKCommunities.

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Tags: Health careMWBE

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