Voice of the WHI: Norm Herbert, WHI co-founder

What inspired your passion for community health?

I served on the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation for nine years and it was eye opening in terms of the many issues that affect our community. From issues of homelessness and finding affordable housing to mental health and accessible health care. Back then, I thought that more could be accomplished if we had more collaboration between local service organizations. Ann Arbor has always had a lot of nonprofits, but they only have so many resources. If they could work together, they could be more efficient and accomplish so much more.

When and why did you join the WHI, and how has it been helpful?

In 2010, with the Affordable Care Act on the horizon, Bob Laverty had the vision to see that the ACA would present many opportunities to help the underserved in Washtenaw county. He asked Bob Gunzel and me if we were interested in helping to spearhead community engagement in this collaborative. We both said yes to a six-month trial and ten years later I am still involved.

The WHI was in a position to address the needs of the underserved and to bring organizations together. It was a very exciting time because we received commitments from St. Joe’s and Michigan Medicine and later the VA, as well as most of the community service organizations in the county. In the early days we wanted to start with five projects and ended up with 11.

Which health challenges—disparities, gaps, policies—keep you up at night?

As we know from our work on the SIM project, there is a convergence of social and health care issues that are affecting many in our community. I am very interested in continuing to collect the SIM data that demonstrates how integrating a person’s social determinant’s of health needs with clinical care can lead to better outcomes. We are working to continue to fund this intervention so that ultimately the health plans will pay for integrated care because it saves on health care costs and improves the wellbeing of their members.

What’s your proudest moment?

There are too many to pick just one!