How Children’s Hospitals Can Engage the Corporate Community

Tim Robinson, smiling and seated with a board room behind him.

Over the last 20 years, Nationwide Children’s Hospital has grown from a treasured regional institution into one of the country’s pre-eminent pediatric health systems – in significant part through its collaboration with central Ohio’s business community. Business partners have been particularly interested in recent years in funding the hospital’s work to improve neighborhoods, provide better access to behavioral health care, and address social determinants of health.

A committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has noticed. In September, it invited Tim Robinson, CEO of Nationwide Children’s, and Kenny McDonald, President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, a non-profit, membership-based organization of CEOs from Columbus’ leading businesses and institutions, to speak about how and why the local business community is interested in supporting children’s well-being.

“Social determinants are our future economic determinants,” McDonald told the committee. “Health and wealth gaps and disparities in our community need to be closed with the same intensity that we are recruiting jobs and investment in our community.”

In early 2023, the National Academies first convened the Committee on Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Children and Youth through Health Care System Transformation. Its role is “to examine promising mechanisms and levers for innovations that can be implemented in the health care system to improve the health and wellbeing of children and youth,” and to produce a consensus study on its findings.

Kelly Kelleher, MD, vice president for community health at Nationwide Children’s, is a member of the committee.

“There is such alignment between what the business community is trying to do, what the public sector is trying to do, and what Nationwide Children’s sees as its mission and mandate,” Robinson told the committee.

Among the most public highlights of the central Ohio’s support of Nationwide Children’s:

  • Nationwide Foundation’s Innovation Fund recently marked a decade of annual $10 million gifts to support research, clinical care and population health – its philanthropy to the hospital has reached $150 million since 2006.
  • The Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion, the largest pediatric facility of its kind, was made possible by a transformational $50 million gift to the hospital, and Big Lots and the Big Lots Foundation continue to support mental health with point-of-sale campaigns at stores.
  • In July, many public and private organizations came together to create the innovative $50 million Linden Health Homes Fund II to expand Nationwide Children’s affordable housing efforts in the Columbus community of Linden.

Business leaders are trying more than ever to reach out to the community, because the community represents the future workforce, said McDonald. McDonald’s organization, The Columbus Partnership, is comprised of 80 top business leaders from across the Columbus Region.

Children’s hospitals, like Nationwide Children’s, are often important conduits to the community – especially when they are engaged in neighborhood improvement efforts, McDonald said. He had one overarching message to the National Academies committee and its pediatric health care members:

“Every one of you has an economic development organization in your community. . .and I think it’s entirely appropriate for you to engage them if you haven’t.”