Sentara Health partners on $100 million investment to improve housing in Virginia

By | October 8, 2019

Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health, in partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a large community development organization, are investing $ 100 million to address social determinants of health in underserved communities in Virginia.

Sentara will contribute $ 50 million and LISC has committed to assemble an additional $ 50 million from public and private sources, to create housing and economic opportunities. Optima Health is part of the Sentara Healthcare integrated healthcare system

The Sentara and LISC alliance will facilitate the development and construction of new affordable housing, including supportive housing units for individuals with mental and behavioral health needs, as well as promoting healthcare access and social services for residents.

The partnership also aims to prepare people for jobs in growth industries through training and coaching, as well as provide support to local entrepreneurs, with the goal of improving individual incomes and expanding local employment.


Research has shown that social determinants of health have a significant and lasting impact on health outcomes.

About 80 percent of an individual’s health can be explained by factors such as income, education, neighborhood conditions, and the health behaviors shaped by these circumstances, according to County Health Rankings, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Sentara’s contribution is among the largest of any hospital in the nation to address the social determinants of health, according to the health system.


In 2017, more than 250,000 children in Virginia lived in poverty, and over 50 percent of these children lived in households that spent more than half of their income on housing, leaving families with little money for transportation, exercise, medical care or healthy and nutritious food.

In 2018, Sentara gave $ 390 million in community benefit and earlier this year announced $ 6.5 million to support local community health clinics and food banks.

LISC is in the midst of a 10-year, $ 10 billion national effort to connect community investments to health gains.


“Addressing these social issues is usually not possible inside the walls of a healthcare facility. If we want to reduce the need for emergency or medical care, we must have a positive impact on our patients and health plan members in their communities,” said Howard P. Kern, president and CEO of Sentara Healthcare.

“As a physician, I know the critical role that communities play in determining health outcomes,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “Sentara and Optima have long been strong community partners dedicated to giving back and improving the health of Virginians through innovative, value-driven, and high-quality clinical care.”

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