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Aspirus: Working To Better Serve The Community

Hospitals have always been considered a “community benefit,” that’s why they are tax-exempt entities. But today, Aspirus hospitals are taking their role as a community resource further than simply providing 24-hour access to care for anyone who needs it.

They are actively developing community partnerships and programs with a broad range of entities, seeking new ways to improve the health of those we serve – beyond the walls of our buildings. The concept of “collective impact” asserts that we can accomplish much more by working across industries and specialties than we ever could by working separately.

Listen as Tara Draeger discusses some of the initiatives that seek to improve the quality of life in the community – often in ways few people would associate with health care.
Aspirus: Working To Better Serve The Community
Featured Speaker:
Tara Draegar
Tara Draeger is the Community Health Programs Manager with Aspirus Health.

Melanie Cole (Host): Hospitals have always been considered a community benefit. That’s why they are tax exempt entities, but today, Aspirus Hospitals are taking their role as community resource further than simply providing 24-hour access to care for anyone who needs it. They are actively developing community partnerships and programs with a broad range of entities, seeking new ways to improve the health of those we serve. My guest today is Tara Draeger. She’s the Community Health Programs Manager at Aspirus Wassaugh Hospital. Welcome to the show, Tara. What is the concept of “Collective Impact?” What does that mean?

Tara Draeger (Guest): The concept for Collective Impact is that we can come together -- instead of working in our silos and working independently -- we can come together with a common agenda and shared measurement and mutually reinforcing activities with good communication, all working towards the same goal.

Melanie: So how is that more of a benefit than by working separately, by bringing it all together?

Tara: By working separately, we only have so much resources, so much knowledge and so if we work together and we pull in partners, even unconventional partners, we can do more together. That’s the concept of Collective Impact.

Melanie: So explain what some of those kinds of initiatives might be. What kinds of community partners are you looking to bring in?

Tara: We work very extensively with the health department -- with public health. We work with United Way. We work with the coalitions in our area. We sit on a lot of boards in coalitions to try to find ways that we can partner and work together.

Melanie: Let’s go over a few of those. For example, Senior Citizen Services, how can you bring those into this Collective Impact and have that so that people know where they can get resources and going through Aspirus at the same time.

Tara: Sure. We work really closely with our Aging and Disability Resource Center in our community, and we try to work together to provide programs for community members and not overlap. We try to support each other and complement each other rather than reinventing the wheel or duplicating services.

Melanie: For certain other types of things like legal services, are those included in this? Can people look to Aspirus for some resources if they have some questions about those?

Tara: Through the requirements of community benefits, it’s one of the services that we offer patients is that we help them sign up for health care. If they’re unable to pay we help guide them through the process of filling out the financial applications and assist them in resources to find ways to pay for their healthcare.

Melanie: Do local partners look to contact you, or you go and look for them?

Tara: I think both. I think we try to position ourselves in the community so that we’re a source of knowledge -- that people feel comfortable asking us for help or for questions. We also like to make a presence in our community so that we’re at the table and making ourselves present and available.

Melanie: Now address the long-term need as you’re looking for partners to come in, whether it’s for scholarships, or medical students, or really anything that you’re looking -- what are you hoping to see is the long-term benefits of this Collective Impact?

Tara: Our goal and the reason why community benefit exists, is to try to change the culture and make our community healthy – give people a healthy place to live, work, and play. That’s our long-term vision is how can we support a community that supports health for people so that no matter what neighborhood they live in and no matter what area they’re from they get the same access and the same benefits from our community.

Melanie: And people don’t always associate that with healthcare, or even with a hospital system in really even considering those kinds of things, yes?

Tara: Absolutely, I think traditionally, people see healthcare as a place to come when they are sick. It’s really our goal with community benefit to help our community see us as a resource for prevention as well as for sick care. It’s getting much more than just a hospital bed and a place you stay, but really a place where you can come together with other people and find resources, and ask questions, and create a really good quality of life.

Melanie: And this is going to go across all of the Aspirus Health system?

Tara: Absolutely, to stay non-profit, it is something that we all need to do. We need to be present in our community, collaborating with partners to write a community health needs assessment, and then we need to develop an implementation strategy based on those identified health needs of our community. Part of that is the stance that we can’t do this alone, we need partners, and we need everybody working together to build a strong community to give each resident a good quality of life.

Melanie: So what is it you would like to tell all of the Aspirus communities about this Collective Impact and how it will affect them and what you’d like them to know about possibly getting involved and utilizing the resources that Aspirus is offering?

Tara: Absolutely, I think there’s great ways that everybody can get involved. That’s the great thing about some of the the boards and coalitions that we get involved in is that we’re looking for that community voice to give us suggestions and input on how we can make our community better and see hospitals as not just a place to come when you’re sick, but we actually care about where you live, work, and play. We’re trying to work together to build a good community.

Melanie: And where can they go for more information, Tara?

Tara: We do have each of our community health needs assessments on our web page, at and then they can contact us for further information.

Melanie: Thank you, so much for being with us today. You’re listening to Aspirus Health Talk. For more information, you can go to, that’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks, so much, for listening.