For the media

Partnering to enhance community health

By The Health News Team | August 15, 2022
Shopper at a grocery store

When Ashton Harris, the lead medical social worker and case manager for Population Health at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, decided to go into social work, she did so because she wanted to serve her community directly. She recognized the essential — and equal — roles mental health, physical health and access to social services play in ensuring the overall health of a community and its residents.

“I wanted to have a career where I was working with people and supporting my community,” Harris says. “I like social work because it’s localized. You have to know a lot about the agencies in your own community and be aware of different programs available to community members.”

It was in San Diego’s Community Information Exchange (CIE) that Harris found the perfect partners to help achieve her goals of helping others at a local level. CIE is a coordinated system of network partners that use a shared language, resource database and technology platform to deliver enhanced community care. Partners are able to combine data from multiple sources to identify resources and work collectively to create a single care plan for the individuals they serve.

Sharp HealthCare is one such partner, committed to helping patients beyond Sharp’s own programs and services.

“If a patient is experiencing food insecurity, I can enroll them in CIE and request a direct referral to CalFresh, which provides financial assistance for purchasing food to low-income California residents, and other programs,” Harris explains. “Someone from 211 San Diego, a hub for essential community services, will reach out to the patient to get them enrolled in CalFresh and explain their benefits.”

From there, the patient can also be connected to 211’s more than 6,000 services and resources. Partners, such as Sharp, work together to support the patient, communicate with each other, and receive notifications and alerts of significant events. For example, if a person enrolled in CIE arrives at a Sharp emergency room, the other partners are notified so that they can proactively anticipate the individual’s needs and make referrals.

“I think it’s wonderful that Sharp is so supportive of CIE,” Harris says. “Being connected with all of the agencies and programs in the county is so important to our patients. And it’s important for us to demonstrate that Sharp is very much invested in community health, specifically San Diego’s community health. Because we all benefit when San Diego has a healthy population.”

Learn more about the positive impact Sharp doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers have on the San Diego community by reading our Community Benefit Plan and Report.


Ashton Harris


Ashton Harris is a lead medical social worker and case manager for Population Health at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group.

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