September 21, 2011; Source: The Daily Town Talk | It was clearly exciting for the president and chief operating officer of the Rapides Foundation, based in tiny Alexandria, Louisiana, to be two of just 100 people invited to a Washington conference on “improving health outcomes through faith-based and community partnerships.”

For Joe Rosier, Rapides’ president, the invitation confirmed that the foundation is making an impact in central Louisiana and developing something of a national reputation. Of particular attention was the Rapides-sponsored Cenla Medication Access Program, which provides “chronic prescription medication to people who could not otherwise afford it,” according to the Town Talk article.

But what else happened at this convening? For the 16 hospitals and the other non-hospital organizations represented, there was probably value in the exchange of information about their programs. But the Health and Human Services press releaseon the convening doesn’t say much beyondthe White House faith-based director’s statement that “turning to faith and community leaders for health and wellness is a part of many faiths,” and the acting HHS faith-based director’s assurance that “by engaging faith and community leaders in collaborative partnerships, health providers can expand health care access and monitor which best practices are working in local communities and lower costs.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear exactly sort kind of assistance HHS is going to offer community-based nonprofits to set up and strengthen public-health partnerships, what the Affordable Care Act will provide as explicit support for partnerships, and what these partnerships might do as the ACA is slowly rolled out? Since the legislation makes clear its rejection of undocumented immigrants and even other populations, how the partnerships might reach and serve the groups left out of health care reform is still something of a mystery.—Rick Cohen