"For us, the family unit is one part of a broader network of care. IRIS can be seen as a mechanism to bolster programs and individuals who seek to support families at a community level."

— IRIS Implementation Team

We on the IRIS team like to ask a lot of questions. Through implementation, surveys, even our readiness indicator, we are curious to know more about you and your organization, your community, and your goals with IRIS. One of our foundational questions is to ask leaders about their ‘why’. ’Why’s are personal motivators, rooted in the values you hold and your dreams for the future. This is an important part of the IRIS implementation approach and contributes to the larger vision for the community. For the IRIS team, our ‘why’ is family. Our work is to help families thrive. We hope we can improve their lives, the lives of parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and partners, and all who are caring for others, especially those who are making an impact on future generations. 

Each month our team is coming together into our “Greenhouse” to connect over research related to our work. To lay the soil, we gathered to review “Family as a Social Determinant of Health: Implications for Governments and Institutions to Promote the Health and Well-Being of Families.” This article focuses on how Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) can negatively impact the quality of life of the family unit. At the core of the author’s argument is that social justice and equity is a key value in allowing a family to be an active contributor to society. Included in this is the notion that a parent’s ability to care for their children (and enable sufficient social, educational, and physical growth) is directly proportional to the security of their home environment.  In turn, the security of the home environment is determined by the governmental and institutional decisions made within a broader society. The author explores the relationship between families, thriving children, and the social environment in which they live, with particular attention given to the roles of governments, institutions, and policymakers in this ecosystem of care.

When reviewing the author’s methodology, what stood out to us was how the family was positioned as central to an ecosystem of care that prioritizes the needs of the family.  For us, the family unit is one part of a broader network of care. IRIS can be seen as a mechanism to bolster programs and individuals who seek to support families at a community level. Every referral made reinforces the need for that service within a community. Examining the trends related to referrals and organizational capacity contribute to understanding the need and assists in generating actionable policies that allow a family unit to thrive.

Of course, we also had some points that did not stick with us. The primary solution provided by the author was that the hospital system should take the lead in connecting communities. Many of our IRIS Leadership Teams come together from small, community-grown organizations and coalitions that rely on grants, state funds, and/or donors to support their mission. While hospitals are valuable, and often, essential partners, we recognize the power of local community leaders from home-grown agencies joining their forces together to build healthier futures. However, we do value highlighting the importance of inter-professional practice within the hospital system and believe that approach should be embraced both within the walls of a hospital and within a network of community providers. Communities are successfully meeting the diverse needs of families within their unique communities by providing supports across multiple sectors in their networks.

This article was selected because it aligns with our vision for IRIS and our ‘why’ as a team. We look forward to embracing all whys in the communities we work with. Share your ‘why’ with us here.