Catalyst Initiatives Build Lasting Health Change

Launched in late 2020, the UnitedHealthcare CatalystTM initiative is a community-centric model that aims to improve health disparities and life outcomes via partnerships with local organizations. While Catalyst initiatives are three-year projects, the long-term objective is to create sustainable, enduring changes that improve the community’s health. To date, there are 22 models in 18 states with a goal of expanding to all markets where we have the honor to serve individuals with Medicaid.

A Partnership with Data and Local Insight

The Catalyst model starts with data to identify a need in the selected community. We use data from UnitedHealthcare and other external sources. We then pair that information with community-based perspectives and insights from local sources. From there, we partner with an anchor agency, such as a Public Housing Authority or Federally Qualified Health Center, to review and supplement the data and name a problem statement and hypothesis.

As the original hypothesis develops into a tangible plan, the group defines measurable outcomes and clarifies responsibilities. Then area partners are added to the team. Depending on a particular market need, agencies with varied specialties, such as nutrition or education, may be called upon. Or we may engage in more unique partnerships with farms, churches, or even barbershops. What’s important is that the partner is already embedded in the community and can play a valuable role in advancing the health and life outcomes of the people there.

The goal of the Catalyst model is reducing health disparities, which creates opportunity for a wide range of interventions. So far, individual communities have focused on topics such as distribution of food, maternal health outcomes, improving transportation or behavioral health access. The partnerships have been as diverse as the goals and locales.

The model recognizes that health outcomes are impacted by upstream social determinants of health and that behavior change is best encouraged by trusted and local community organizations. For this reason, shared decision-making is a key tenet of the Catalyst model.

Measuring Outcomes

While the Catalyst initiatives that started in 2020 are at various stages of maturity, we are using several measures to gauge success. The most important metric is how well the projects are reducing disparities. So far, we have seen the following successes in just a few of the Catalyst projects like:

  • Additional condition specific screenings and care (for example maternity or diabetes)
  • Increased engagement with preventive health
  • Expanded access to comprehensive care including case management, behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment
  • Linking individuals to food resources, dental care, rental assistance, utility assistance, transportation, employment coaching or other social determinants of health
  • Diabetes health education and training

Success is also derived through stronger and more informed partnerships. For example, as a result of this work, communities are working together differently to provide health and social support to residents.  As an organization, we have seen our relationships with the community and other agencies grow and deepen. We’ve also been able to integrate what we have learned from partners to update our own processes and approach. 

Looking Forward

This year we will be enabling more Catalyst models and look forward to continuing this impactful and innovative work with more partners in additional geographies. We are also performing deeper analyses on those already in place. All Catalyst programs have the goal of becoming sustainable within the community and we are excited to see our mission live on in a meaningful way. 

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