BJC HealthCare Advances Commitment to Community Health Improvement, Announces First Partnerships


ST. LOUIS (March 2, 2022) – BJC HealthCare is introducing its community health improvement strategic plan, leadership team and first regional partnerships in an effort to alleviate health inequities across the St. Louis region.

“Research and reports such as For the Sake of All repeatedly point to socioeconomic factors including poverty, education, housing and inequality as having the greatest impact on health,” said Rich Liekweg, BJC HealthCare president and chief executive officer. “One of the jarring data points cited in that report is that people in affluent communities live an average of 18 years longer than those in under-resourced communities just a few miles away. At BJC, we are committed to changing disparities like that.”

To accomplish this, BJC is working alongside groups that make up the fabric of under-resourced neighborhoods and is striving to bring a holistic approach to improving physical, mental, and financial well-being. Addressing the root causes of health problems, especially those that disproportionately affect ZIP codes where there has been under-investment, will lead to increased wellness and greater overall quality of life.

BJC will work with communities in the City of St. Louis and North St. Louis County most impacted by inequities and will focus support around four areas significant to health and well-being: financial investment in the community, diabetes and healthy food access, infant and maternal health, and school health and wellness. BJC went through a very robust planning process with engagement from internal stakeholders and the community to determine these focus areas.

“We cannot improve community health without the community,” said Jason Purnell, Ph.D., BJC vice president of community health improvement. “This inclusive process gave us time to authentically listen and learn. We are committed to acting on what we heard and are excited to work in partnership with the communities we serve to address these issues.”

In September 2021, BJC HealthCare’s Board of Directors and executive leadership team endorsed the plan.

BJC has recruited a talented and diverse leadership team to advance its commitment to community health improvement. Joining Dr. Purnell’s leadership team are Karlos Bledsoe, director, strategy and operations; Doneisha Bohannon, director, community health partnerships and collaboration; Christopher Nolan, director, anchor initiatives; and Greta Todd, St. Louis Children Hospital’s executive director, diversity, equity, & inclusion and community affairs. This team is primarily responsible for working collaboratively throughout BJC and with community partners and residents to co-design and amplify efforts that address health inequities.

BJC cannot do this work alone or in a silo. It has developed and expanded relationships with partners in the community to help advance efforts in these focus areas while addressing other critical needs. “Our work has already begun,” noted Dr. Purnell. “We’ve responded to urgent needs in the community during the pandemic by partnering with various churches, businesses and community organizations across North St. Louis to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations equitably.”

Some of the other initial partnerships include Midwest BankCentre and St. Louis Community Credit Union, two banks that have a shared mission of improving health and economic well-being. BJC recently developed a depository relationship with these two local banks to address a historic lack of investment in the City of St. Louis and North St. Louis County. The deposits will be used to create loans to invest in these communities, including support for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses and for individuals to realize the dream of home ownership. BJC is also partnering with colleagues at Christian Hospital, and community partners North Sarah Food Hub by Holistic Organic Sustainable Cooperatives, Operation Food Search, and My Blooming Health Lab to provide healthy meals, nutritional counseling, and social needs assistance to address food insecurity and uncontrolled diabetes in North St. Louis.

“These early partnerships help to address the wealth and health gap, food insecurity and diabetes disparities,” said Dr. Purnell. “We are meeting people in their neighborhoods and working collaboratively with partners to address disparities. We are continuing to identify partners and build relationships across our region to help move the needle in these focus areas.”

“We recognize that to focus on improvement of community health is to focus on a long-term goal,” Liekweg added. “We envision a thriving bi-state region in which all people have an equal opportunity to live their healthiest lives.”

Learn more about BJC’s ongoing community health improvement work, and how you can get involved.


BJC HealthCare is one of the largest nonprofit health care organizations in the United States and is focused on delivering services to residents primarily in the greater St. Louis, southern Illinois and southeast-Missouri regions. With net revenues of $5.5 billion, BJC serves the health care needs of urban, suburban and rural communities and includes 14 hospitals and multiple community health locations. Services include inpatient and outpatient care, primary care, community health and wellness, workplace health, home health, community mental health, rehabilitation, long-term care and hospice. BJC’s academic medical centers – Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s Hospitals ­– are affiliated with the renowned Washington University School of Medicine.


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