October 2016 Associate Board Spotlight: Cook County Health Foundation

Cook County Health & Hospitals System (CCHHS) is one of the largest public health systems in the nation, serving as the safety net for health care in Chicago and suburban Cook County and caring for more than 300,000 patients each year. Today, CCHHS is transforming the provision of health care in Cook County by promoting community-based primary and preventive care, developing a robust, collaborative health plan, and enhancing the patient experience. For more information about CCHHS visit www.cookcountyhhs.org.

CharityScenes recently sat down with the two founding members of the Cook County Health Foundation Associate Board (CCHFAB), President Josh Sorin and Vice President Lindsay Zimmerman. They formed the board in 2015 to support the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS) and the Cook County Health Foundation. In their own words, the CCHFAB is starting a movement in the Chicago and Cook County community! Read on to find out more about the great work the board is doing.

CS:  Hi Josh and Lindsay! Tell us more about the CCHFAB.

CCHFAB:  First and foremost, it’s about increasing awareness of the CCHHS among the young professionals community and in Chicago. CCHHS is such a huge, important public asset that young professionals need to know about. Then, we’re raising money, both for the hospital system and specific causes within the system. The final goal is laying the foundation for the future philanthropic support of CCHHS. If you look at other hospitals in Chicago, they all have large foundation bases, and while they are all absolutely worthy causes, the CCHHS is just as important. We’re trying to educate young professionals now to establish a relationship of support for the future.

CS:  That’s smart. You mentioned you’ve raised money for some specific causes within the system. What’s one of those you supported recently?

CCHFAB:  This year, our focus was on food insecurity. The hospital system worked with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to identify individuals who are food insecure, meaning they don’t have access to fresh fruit and vegetables, which is something that has an impact on health outcomes. We had a fundraiser in July to help bring ‘fresh trucks’ to CCHHS clinics. These trucks…imagine a big 18-wheeler that’s decked out with a grocery store. People can actually go to this and they can collect fresh food and produce to feed their families. We raised over $18,000 for fresh trucks. It’s an example of how CCHHS is in a direct position to help address social determinants, which is why we started the board in the first place.

CS:  That’s right! You’re the founding members of the board. How’d everything come together, and what were some of the challenges you faced in getting to the point you’re at now?

CCHFAB:  It was actually pretty serendipitous. Having been exposed to CCHHS through volunteering or consulting, we each were asking similar questions of Dr. Shannon, the CEO of CCHHS:  Do you have an associate board? And then, can we start an associate board? He put us in contact with each other and we got to work. We built the board from scratch, there wasn’t a template we were working from. So we started with the objective and then built out how they’d get there. Who are the right people we need to get involved early on? And of course, we’re starting with a $0 budget.

One major challenge was finding good people, since the people involved on the ground are what makes this work. We started by pulling from our own networks with people who were interested and passionate and ready to help make this come alive. Another big challenge for us was that we know we’re not the only Associate Board in town, so what makes us different specifically? Why are we a worthy cause that people should get involved in? CCHHS is in a unique position where they’re so critical to the foundation of the city of Chicago and Cook County. For that reason, supporting the hospital system isn’t just supporting the clinics and hospitals, it’s really a vote for the city of Chicago and Cook County—there’s the intersection of healthcare but also social and human services.

CS:  It sounds like CCHHS is an awesome organization to be supporting. What is so unique about the system?

CCHFAB:  It all comes back to addressing social determinants of health—these are things that have an effect on someone’s health. It includes housing, it includes food insecurity, violence in your community—all issues that any major city, but specifically Chicago, faces. Who’s in the best position to impact change on those determinants? Well, the CCHHS has a network of clinics that expand throughout Cook County, so they’re in a lot of these underserved communities that face these challenges. When you think about “If I care about the city and the community, where is the best place to put my support and energy?” CCHHS is not just a hospital focused on what’s inside the four walls, it has a network throughout Chicago and the county and in many of these underserved communities.

CS:  That’s amazing! So what types of events do you all have?

CCHFAB:  Well, we do fundraising, but we’re primarily focused on awareness, because we know that the money we raise is going to be a drop in the bucket in terms of the size of the problems we can address. We really want to start a movement of young professionals that starts to address some of these social determinants in the city. These problems will not be solved purely by fundraising, but will be solved with everyone being aware and ready to make a change in their city.

One of our recent events was free and had renowned physician Dr. David Ansell advocating on behalf of CCHHS and bringing people together to have a larger conversation. So it’s not just our group talking about how we can address social determinants of health, but we have events where we can bring the conversation to larger groups of people.

CS:  Love what you said there about trying to start a movement, that’s powerful. Tell us more about the board itself.

CCHFAB:  We’re around 22 members now, but our target size is around 30 so we’re looking to grow a little more. It’s a really diverse group of young professionals, several who work in healthcare, but also people who work in other industries and just have an interest in supporting the cause. We have people who work in consulting, banking, work for startups, are CEOs of their own startups, individuals who have clinical backgrounds, like nurses, doctors, and even people in PhD programs. The thing that ties us all together is of course an interest in healthcare, but also the wellbeing of our city and public health in general.

CS:  So it’s not a requirement to have a background in healthcare to join?

CCHFAB:  Nope, not a requirement, we just want individuals who are passionate about the cause and want to be involved. We are currently accepting applications for our board on a rolling basis, so we review them each month in time for any new members to attend the next meeting.

CS:  Anything else about the board that we haven’t covered yet?

CCHFAB:  Something that’s very important about our board is the structure, because it ties our mission together with a focus on the community. We have four committees in addition to the executive committee. Our events committee develops, coordinates, and implements events. Our marketing committee helps with promoting the board as a whole. Our membership committee is focused on existing members and plans networking events within our group. But then we have our volunteering and community development committee. This committee strategizes these community efforts, and really figures out ways we can interact with other organizations to address these social determinants of health and tie it back to the CCHHS mission.

CS:  What’s the next step to get involved for those who are interested?

CCHFAB:  To learn more, go to cchealthfoundation.org/about/associate-board/, check us out on Facebook (facebook.com/cchfassociateboard), and Twitter (@CCHF_AsscBoard). If you’re interested, we’d like you to start by having a conversation with an executive board member so you have a better idea of what we do. You can email us at associateboard.cchf@gmail.com.