Repairing the Social Contract by Adopting AAMC’s Fourth Mission of Embracing Community Collaboration
A 2021 article, “Now is our time to act: Why academic medicine must embrace community collaboration as its fourth mission,” by Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) authors, including AAMC president and CEO Dr. David J. Skorton, offers 2 aims that are highly related: community collaboration and health equity. The AAMC’s call to prioritize community collaboration and health equity as pillars of the academic medicine mission echo earlier work on community-oriented primary care (COPC) and an even more robust model that builds on COPC, community-engaged health care (CEHC). COPC is a tested, systematic approach to health care by which a health clinic or system collaborates with a community to reshape priorities and services based on assessed health needs and determinants of health. COPC affirms health inequities’ socioeconomic and political roots, emphasizing health care as a relationship, not a transaction or commodity. Communities where COPC is implemented often see reductions in health inequities, especially those related to socioeconomic, structural, and environmental factors. COPC was the foundation on which community health centers were built, and early models had demonstrable effects on community health and engagement. Several academic health centers build on COPC to achieve community-engaged health care (CEHC). In CEHC, primary care remains critical, but more of the academic health center’s functions are pulled into community engagement and trust building. Thus, the AAMC has described and embraced a care and training model for which there are good, longitudinal examples among medical schools and teaching hospitals. Spreading CEHC and aligning the Community Health Needs Assessment requirements of academic health centers with the fourth mission could go a long way to improving equity, building trust, and repairing the social contract for health care.