Spreading Hope One Call at a Time
A casual phone call can do more than lift people’s spirits. It can improve their health, too.
That’s the basis of Calls for HOPE, an innovative pilot program at MetroHealth designed to combat the intense social isolation experienced by many of our patients, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit in-person interactions. The program – made possible with support from Cigna and Baldwin Wallace University’s Jacket Philanthropy Program – pairs trained MetroHealth volunteers with patients for weekly chats over the phone.
Think small talk with a purpose – an opportunity for human connection that otherwise wouldn’t be available. Conversation might focus on the weather, hobbies, plans for the week, recipes – anything that might get the patient talking.
“One of our core beliefs at the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ is that good health depends on far more than medical care,” said Karen Cook, Director, Healthy Families & Thriving Communities, Institute for H.O.P.E.™ “Human connection – kindness, compassion and concern – has healing benefits. Calls for HOPE is just one of the strategies we believe can buffer some of the loneliness and isolation experienced by our patients.”
More than 31% of MetroHealth patients screened for social needs are at high risk for social isolation. And loneliness, of course, is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide. Also, research shows that loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with an almost four-fold increased risk of death and higher rates of hospitalization.
Patient participants include individuals managing chronic illness or injury, those living alone and individuals experiencing life changes that present new challenges for socializing. Volunteers are trained to keep things positive, report concerning behavior and steer the patient toward other healthy outlets for socialization.
One of those volunteers is Xiomara Merced, a MetroHealth employee who jumped at the opportunity to give back at a time when volunteer opportunities had been limited because of the pandemic.
“I always try to think about my family when making these calls,” she said. “Interaction is so important in our lives, and so many are lacking it right now because of the pandemic.”
Currently, the Calls for HOPE program involves a small group of patients and volunteers, but plans are underway to expand its reach to offer more patients a needed dose of human connection.
If you are interested in volunteering with future phases of Calls for HOPE, please email CallsforHOPE@metrohealth.org with your contact information. Please put volunteer in the subject line.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through four hospitals, four emergency departments, and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites. Each day, our 8,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable health care–through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services–that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit metrohealth.org.