Creating opportunities to improve overall health in Nebraska

Sometimes with large-scale, systemic health care issues, it takes a holistic approach to move a community in the right direction — one single entity may not be enough. This means finding the right partners and having a spirit of collaboration that creates an environment where “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

The UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Nebraska announced $5.4 million of funding to the Creighton Community Collaborative (CCC), a program organized and operated by Creighton University. The program aims to collaborate with community partners to help address a wide range of health needs in order to create long-lasting impacts. 

“We recognize it’s the community that rallies around the people we serve that really need to make a difference,” said Dr. Kevin Bagley, Medicaid director in Nebraska. “So the question becomes: How do we support the community to get that done?”

The CCC program, in particular, focuses on areas in Omaha that are underserved in terms of health care delivery and social determinants of health. The key areas for these interventions include, but are not limited to:

  • Housing support
  • Food insecurity
  • Access to primary care
  • COVID-19 vaccine confidence

Creighton University is in a unique position in the community to spearhead these efforts, with a great understanding of those most in need, how to make the most impact and relationships with local organizations on the ground.

“We were tremendously excited to be involved. Both of our missions align to improve the health of Nebraskans,” said Dr. Maureen Tierney, associate dean of Clinical Research and Public Health at the Creighton School of Medicine, and one of the leaders of the CCC.

The program works with various partners in the community, such as Together Omaha, an organization that tackles food insecurity and homelessness. Their food pantry has about 150,000 visitors a year. For housing issues, they have a Crisis Engagement Program for people who are on the cusp of being homeless, and work with chronically homeless individuals and families.

“Together Omaha looks for answers,” said Jeff Stafford, CEO of the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Nebraska. “They’re undaunted with some pretty daunting things. And when you’re trying to find a better way forward, it’s important to have the collaborative partners that have that wiring. And the sense of mission and stewardship and entrepreneurship is a defining cultural characteristic.”

Making a complex collaboration like this work requires active listening, patience and steadiness, he adds.

The overall goal is to create opportunities for systemic change in the community — not just short-term gains.

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