Integrating health care providers with communities

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Zachary Gerson-Nieder spends a lot of time thinking about the role hospitals can play in communities. Of course they provide health care—but they also serve as regional economic anchors.

Which makes him wonder: How much do hospital administrators, city planners and other key stakeholders consider hospitals’ impact on communities? Is it a major focus or more of an afterthought?

To Gerson-Nieder, who graduates from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) this month with a master of science degree in health policy and management, such considerations should be anything but a postscript to policy decisions. He is deeply intrigued by the intersection of health care policy and economic development in communities.

To that end, Gerson-Nieder took courses at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design to supplement his HSPH coursework. He studied topics such as municipal planning, neighborhood revitalization, public and private development, and state and local public finance—“all things which don’t necessarily have the most obvious connection to public health, but which I think play a pretty important role,” he said.

He is particularly interested in the role health providers play in Massachusetts’ “gateway cities”—mid-sized urban centers that have the potential to serve as regional economic anchors but face social and economic challenges, such as Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, and Fall River.

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