Interact for Health

Q&A: Rachel Keller Eisman, executive director of the BUILD Health Challenge

(Feb 27th, 2017)

Rachel Keller Eisman is the executive director of the BUILD Health Challenge, an initiative that works to facilitate community partnerships between hospitals, health systems, community-based organizations, local health departments and other organizations in a community to improve the overall health of local residents. The organization has partnered with Interact for Health to make a grant this year in Greater Cincinnati.

Interact for Health: Could you explain more about the BUILD Health Challenge and its goals?

Rachel Keller Eisman: The BUILD Health Challenge supports community collaborations that address upstream issues -- things like poverty, substandard housing, lack of transportation or environment -- that unfold outside of our health care system but contribute a huge deal to just how healthy we are. BUILD stands for Bold, Upstream, Integrated, Local, and Data-driven strategies, which are the cornerstones of our approach. The hospital-community-public health partnerships supported by BUILD Health are tackling these factors in order to improve overall health and wellness, reduce health care costs and promote health equity. Our hope is that, in the end, our projects will realign attention and some health care resources to the issues that have the biggest influence on our health.

Interact for Health: What lessons have you learned from working with the organization?

Keller Eisman: Across the past two years we have watched leaders from health care, public health and the community come together in fundamentally new ways. They've reoriented how they work together to improve health and wellness. For most, it required re-imagining how they saw themselves, sharing their data and resources, and bringing creativity to how they partner. The challenges -- logistical, financial and strategic -- were real, but offered incredible opportunities to catalyze change in ways that will be felt in communities well into the future.

Interact for Health: Could you tell me a brief story that illustrates the effect of the program in the communities you serve?

Keller Eisman: In Cleveland, the BUILD partnership has been focusing on prevention-based housing maintenance and strategically targeted home interventions. The partners have worked collaboratively to reduce in-home health hazards that cause and exacerbate chronic illness. They continue to advance their campaign to rid the city of toxic lead paint, which can lead to developmental challenges and lifelong health issues. Their hope is that their work in the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton and Brooklyn Centre neighborhood can serve as a replicable pilot project for other areas in Cleveland, paving the way for citywide policy changes and demonstrating the return on investment to health insurers. Beyond Cleveland, similar work is being carried out in 16 other communities and will start up in another 21 next year. We'll be watching closely to identify bright spots of change that can be replicated for better health across the country.

Interact for Health: What about your work is most fulfilling?

Keller Eisman: Because of work supported by the BUILD Health Challenge, people are getting a fair chance at being healthy. Communities are doing things differently; they are looking at problems in new ways, inviting different people to the table, and connecting all of the dots to make sure that the health system is no longer a revolving door for chronic conditions that cannot be addressed by any amount of medical care. Seeing communities address the true root causes of health issues, not just their symptoms, is incredibly inspiring. The vision and determination of the people on the ground driving these partnerships are the keys to what is making them successful.