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New Network Unites Community Leaders to Improve Health

Dec 10, 2014, 12:55 PM

The Build Healthy Places Network, a new and innovative resource to improve health outcomes in low-income communities, launched last month during the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.

This groundbreaking network sits at the intersection of public health and community development. The goal of the network is to expand our collective understanding of the social determinants that impact public health and catalyze action. In so doing, the Build Healthy Places Network hopes to create new models and develop new tools to help leaders of low-income communities and create a Culture of Health where every individual lives the healthiest life possible.

Already, cutting edge work is being done in the public health sphere to begin addressing the many factors that impact health. As Douglas Jutte, MD, MPH, the Network’s executive director, recently described, the Network is designed to aggregate the work being done to help build a knowledge base for every community to use. 

“The concept is derived from a series of conferences that the Federal Reserve System has held focusing on both health and community development,” said Jutte. “There was a growing recognition that there needs to be a support system to build bridges between these two distinct sectors. While the conferences were a good start, we saw the opportunity for a network to help build these cross-sectoral connections and keep this field of collaboration moving forward.”

The Network’s website includes resources such as primers on improving the health of communities and stories about communities that are already uniting community development experts and public health experts to build a Culture of Health.

Jutte says a lot of the successes in the field currently are anecdotal and people working in the field often come up them “accidentally.”

“You hear about this amazing work that someone is doing in some corner of a faraway state and that really should end because we have the ability to share that kind of knowledge,” says Jutte.

He continued, “A key goal is to move health and community development from their siloes to collaboration. The Network will serve as a clearing house to bring together stories and evidence and examples of collaboration in communities.”  

Going forward, the Network plans to “synthesize” what is known and what the good examples are “so that we can help communities and leaders who are not even sure where to start, to really understand what’s going on in terms of new models with a focus on measurement, policy, finance and investment,” Jutte said.  

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.

We Are All Tuskegee

Dec 10, 2014, 9:00 AM, Posted by Collins O. Airhihenbuwa

Collins O. Airhihenbuwa, PhD, MPH, is professor and head of the Department of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University. The first RWJF Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health was held last week. The conversation continues here on the RWJF Human Capital Blog.

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As we address disparities and inequities, the challenge is to think about solutions and not simply defining the problem. Most would agree that health is the most important part of who we are. It is the first thing we think about in the morning when we greet one another by asking, “How are you this morning?” It is the last thing we think about at night when we wish someone a restful night.

Collins Airhihenbuwa

What may be different is what health means to us and our families. This is why place and context are important. How we think about health and what we choose to do about it is very much influenced by where we reside. Our place and related cultural differences about health are less about right or wrong and more about ways of relating and meeting expectations our families and communities may have of us, whether expressed or perceived. More than that is the way we relate to what our place means in terms of how it is defined and subsequently how that definition shapes how we define it for ourselves. In other words the ‘gate’ through which we talk about our place and ourselves is very important in having a conversation about who we are and what that means for our health.

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Seizing Opportunities to Reinvent Public Health

Dec 2, 2014, 10:57 AM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

A doctor talks in a friendly manner to a disabled patient sitting in a wheelchair

“The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different,” wrote the late management guru Peter Drucker.  To the list of society’s sectors that are struggling with that conclusion, add government-funded public health.

State and local health departments face growing challenges, including infectious disease threats such as Ebola and chikungunya; a rising burden of chronic illness; an increasingly diverse population; even the health impact of global warming. At the same time, fiscal constraints accompanying the 2007–2008 recession and its aftermath hammered local, state, and territorial health agencies, which lost nearly 30,000 jobs—6 percent to 12 percent of their total workforces—from 2008 to 2013.

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Lessons from the Arabbers of Baltimore

Nov 28, 2014, 9:00 AM, Posted by Maya M. Rockeymoore

Maya M. Rockeymoore, PhD, is president of the Center for Global Policy Solutions, a nonprofit dedicated to making policy work for people and their environments, and director of Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). On December 5, RWJF will hold its first Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health. Learn more.

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When I think of the resilience of disadvantaged communities disproportionately affected by health disparities, I think of the Arabbers of Baltimore, Md. They are not Arabic speaking people from the Middle East or North Africa, but scrappy African American entrepreneurs who started selling fresh foods in Baltimore’s underserved communities in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Maya Rockeymoore

Their relevance continued into the modern era as supermarkets divested from low-income neighborhoods, leaving struggling residents with few options aside from unhealthy fast food and carry-out restaurants. Driving horses with carts laden with colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, Arabbers sold their produce to residents literally starving for nutritious food.

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Improving Health through Collaboration: The BUILD Health Challenge

Nov 26, 2014, 8:59 AM, Posted by Abbey Cofsky

Brownsville Farmers’ Market Enhancing community health: Customers buy produce at the Brownsville Farmers' Market in the Culture of Health Prize-winning city of Brownsville, Texas

Here at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the name of the game is collaboration. Our goal—to build a Culture of Health in which getting and staying healthy is a fundamental societal priority—is an ambitious one, requiring coordinated efforts among everyone in a community, from local businesses to schools to hospitals and government. It also calls for those of us at the Foundation to collaborate with other like-minded groups to address the complex challenges that stand in the way of better health.

That is why we are so pleased to be a partner in the BUILD Health Challenge, a $7.5 million program designed to increase the number and effectiveness of community collaborations to improve health.

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Adding Diversity to the Ranks of Public Health Nursing Leadership: Q&A with Shirley Orr, MHS, APRN

Nov 19, 2014, 11:39 AM

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Today at the American Public Health Association annual meeting in New Orleans, Shirley Orr, MHS, APRN, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow and public health consultant, and Doris Brown of the Louisiana Department of Health, will be talking about opportunities for nursing leaders to implement the recommendations of a 2010 Institute of Medicine Report entitled “The Future of Nursing.” This report looks at ways that the nursing profession can transform itself in order to better align with population health and more effectively collaborate to create a healthier overall population.

NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Orr about how nurses can help improve community and population health. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Orr Shirley Orr, MHS, APRN

NewPublicHealth: What does the nursing profession need to do in order to align itself with a focus on population health?

Shirley Orr: A couple of things in particular that stand out are education and diversity. We recently did a public health nursing enumeration that was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and we found two things in particular relating to the recommendations. First, that overall, public health nurses need new skills and they need higher levels of education to be able to function more collaboratively and within collaborations—both within health care and with other community partners.

Second, we found that nationwide, the demographic profile of public health nurses does not look like the population that we serve. Ethnic minorities are very much underrepresented among public health nursing—particularly in leadership roles.

We have a very urgent need to recruit more nurses of color into the ranks of public health nursing leadership.

NPH: Why is that necessary?

Orr: A core component of nursing curriculum today is culture competency. That being said, we also know that having nurses who understand populations very, very deeply by having a frame of reference for that population and being a member of that population really are able to help to get the highest level of engagement from the population. They’re also best prepared to understand the culture, the needs, the motivations about populations, so they’re really best positioned to be able to carry out in partnership strategies that are going to make a difference long-term in the health of populations. 

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New Research Shows How Sugary Drinks Are Marketed to Children in the Age of Social Media

Nov 19, 2014, 10:27 AM

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Beverage companies spent $866 million to advertise unhealthy drinks in 2013, and children and teens remained key target audiences for that advertising, according to a new report released today at APHA by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. The report “Sugary Drink FACTS 2014” highlights some progress regarding beverage marketing to young people, but also shows that companies still have a long way to go to improve their marketing practices and the nutritional quality of their products to support young people’s health.

“Despite promises by major beverage companies to be part of the solution in addressing childhood obesity, our report shows that companies continue to market their unhealthy products directly to children and teens,” said Jennifer Harris, PhD, Rudd Center’s director of marketing initiatives and lead author of the report. “They have also rapidly expanded marketing in social and mobile media that are popular with young people, but much more difficult for parents to monitor.”

Harris and her team examined changes in the nutritional content of sugar-sweetened drinks including sodas, energy drinks, fruit drinks, and others. They also analyzed marketing tactics for 23 companies that advertised these products, including changes in advertising to children and teens on TV, the internet, and newer media like mobile apps and social media. Researchers also examined changes in the nutrition and marketing of diet beverages, 100% juice, and water. The report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Learn more about the key findings of the report in the following exclusive interview with Harris. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

NPH:  You issued the first version of this new report in 2011. What are the changes since then?

Jennifer Harris: The biggest change that we saw was a very significant decline in advertising on television. Preschoolers are seeing 33% fewer TV ads for sugary drinks in 2013 than they saw in 2010. Children are seeing 39% fewer, and teens are seeing 30% fewer. So, that was really some great news to see, but some categories had bigger declines than others. Fruit drinks went down by about 50%, but advertising for energy drinks that kids see actually increased. So, there was some good news and some bad news. 

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APHA 2014: A ReFreshing Collaboration is Building Better Health in New Orleans

Nov 18, 2014, 1:13 PM

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If we as a nation are to succeed in building a Culture of Health that benefits every individual, it will require collaboration across sectors, open communication among diverse organizations and a willingness to step out of traditional practices to find effective interventions.

On Monday, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Vice President Michelle Larkin showcased one example of this innovative collaboration that is occurring on the edge of a low-income neighborhood in New Orleans, just a few miles away from this year’s American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting.

At the corner of North Broad Street and Bienville Avenue sits The ReFresh Project—an innovative fresh food hub located in a former warehouse that had been vacant since Hurricane Katrina struck the city nine years ago. Today the site is home to a Whole Foods Market, Liberty’s Kitchen, The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine and an onsite farm.

The goal of the hub, according to project founder Jeffrey Schwartz, is to create new eating, working, exercise and community living cultures.

Each aspect of the Refresh Project is designed to realize these goals. 

WholeFoods The ReFresh Project in New Orleans, La.
  • At the Whole Foods market, which anchors the Refresh project development, products are specifically chosen to be both high quailty and affordable. Specifically, the store carries more store-line products and often has more sale items than other stores in the Whole Foods chain. Two healthy eating educators are also located on-site to answer questions, craft recipes, and host tours.
  • At Liberty’s Kitchen, a culinary work readiness and leadership program for at-risk youth, New Orleans youth ages 16-24 who are out of work and out of school are given an intensive and hands-on food service training, case management, job placement services and follow-up support. Ninety percent of Liberty’s Kitchen Youth Development Program participants are employed on graduation out of the program and 80 percent are still employed at the six-month benchmark, according to the organization.

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Looking at Health Departments’ Ever-Changing Future: A Discussion of the Recent Findings of the Public Health 2030 Project

Nov 18, 2014, 10:05 AM

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From the dramatic impact of extreme weather events such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, to the rapidly changing policy landscape of health care providers, the functions, missions and futures of public health agencies continue to change.

To help health departments plan for an uncertain future, the Institute for Alternative Futures—with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Kresge Foundation—recently worked with state and local health departments, leaders and experts in the field to look forward to the year 2030 and analyze public health scenarios in order to offer pathways to expectable, challenging and visionary futures for public health.

On Tuesday afternoon at APHA, Clement Bezold, PhD, the Founder and Chairman of the Institute for Alternative Futures, and Terry Allan MPH, will discuss theses scenarios and findings and insights gained.

Prior to their presentation, NewPublicHealth sat down with Bezold for an exclusive preview of his presentation.

NewPublicHealth: How did your APHA presentation come about?

Clement Bezold: The presentation is based on the Public Health 2030 project, and that project came about following scenario reports on primary care, on vulnerability, social and economic vulnerability in the United States and on health and health care.

NPH: What are some of the key points about the Public Health 2030 project?

CB: With Public Health 2030, there are a host of challenges and opportunities facing health departments. There are the ongoing fiscal issues at the state and local governmental levels, there’s increased infectious disease, there are climate-change-related changes that communities are facing. 

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Putting the People in Data

Nov 18, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Matthew Trujillo

Data for Health Phoenix Photo

I recently had the privilege of attending the Data for Health listening sessions in Phoenix and Des Moines, initiatives that explore how data and information can be used to improve people’s heath. The key lesson I took away: We cannot forget about the human element when we think about health data and technology.

I have to be honest and admit that I attended these sessions with some admittedly naïve expectations. I half expected that the Des Moines airport would be in the middle of a corn field and that the conversation in the two sessions would focus on the technical side of health data – with people using terms like interoperability and de-identification. But I quickly learned that Des Moines is a flourishing city full of great running paths and people who are passionate about health data. The conversations in both cities actually focused not on the technical side of health data but rather on the human side.

While health data and technology are complex, the complexity of the the individuals and communities who generate and use them are far greater. At first glance, this human complexity may seem like the source of many health data problems but, as pointed out by the session attendees, it is actually the source of many health data solutions:

 

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