“It’s the classic difference between giving a man a fish or teaching him to fish for a lifetime.”
Some Boston’s world-class hospitals are located in a neighborhood called Mission Hill. These include Brigham and Women’s, Beth Israel, and Boston Children’s Hospital. Farther away, but within a mile, is the emblematic African American neighborhood of Roxbury. Some people say that at one time Roxbury and Mission Hill were the same neighborhood, but that the names and zip codes were changed to make Mission Hill more attractive for business. In the nineties, the expansion of hospitals and universities created a wave of gentrification that transformed Mission Hill. The first people to go in a gentrification process are often the people of color and the poorest in the community. Roxbury is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Boston, and its population is composed mainly of African American folks and immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean Islands. Boston’s hospitals already do some work in and for their neighbors – in particular with Mission Hill and to a much lesser extent with Roxbury.
From my viewpoint, hospitals have tended to provide what I would call “token” benefits – ephemeral gestures like in-kind donations and volunteer health workers for neighboring residents. Residents should demand more meaningful benefits, like for workforce development and job creation. It’s the classic difference between giving a man a fish or teaching him to fish for a lifetime.
A number of vibrant community organizations both in Mission Hill and Roxbury could work together to develop strategies and agreements with the hospitals on job creation for their community members. These groups need to get to know what the new IRS regulations under the Affordable Care Act are like and analyze what positive things hospitals are doing already. They can form a coalition that focuses on leveraging resources for their own programs, but also on jobs for the community at large.
Juan E. Leyton is the former Executive Director of Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts. Reach him on Twitter at @JuanELeyton.
Read the whole “Hospitals as Neighbors” collection:
• Cleveland’s Forward-thinking Hospitals by Steven D. Standley of Cleveland, Ohio
• An Empty Hospital Stands in Trenton by Tiana Thomas of Trenton, New Jersey
• New IRS Regulations Create Opportunity by Dayna Cunningham of MIT