System and Services Research for Better Health

Apr 18, 2017, 8:30 AM, Posted by Carolyn Miller, Oktawia Wojcik

How can we identify the system-level strategies needed to improve the delivery of medical, public health, and social services? With $2 million in funding, we’re calling on research teams to find out.

What does it look like when systems work better together?

At Arizona State University, a research team is exploring this very question. By integrating data sources from Arizona’s medical, mental health, and criminal justice systems, they’re looking for ways to effectively coordinate health and support services for those confronting mental health or substance abuse challenges. The study uses systems modeling and network analysis methods to see how individuals and dollars move between and within these systems. These insights will help us better understand how changes in financing and service delivery can improve health outcomes.

Over at Drexel University, a team is studying how aligning Medicaid coverage for behavioral services with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) can reduce children’s developmental risks, improve future employment and income, and reduce the return of beneficiaries to the TANF program.

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Innovations from Abroad Are Keeping Seniors Socially Connected

Apr 13, 2017, 10:00 AM, Posted by Susan Mende

From a dementia village to the next AirBnB for seniors, global entrepreneurs are searching for ways to improve the lives of a rapidly aging population. Their lessons can inform efforts right here in the United States where the elderly population is expected to more than double by 2060.

Through the plate glass window of the café where I sipped my coffee, I watched an older gentleman bend to pick something off the ground. He did this repeatedly: down and up, down and up. I learned that he did this every day for hours, picking up fallen leaves.

The man had dementia and lived in Hogewey, a community outside Amsterdam where older people with advanced dementia lead largely autonomous lives in familiar, welcoming surroundings. This particular gentleman liked to pick up leaves—and why not? It did him no harm; in fact, it gave him a little exercise, and he probably found the activity relaxing.

Hogewey is unique—a gated, village-like community where those with dementia live in small-group homes that look and feel like real homes, with people of similar backgrounds and experiences. Caregiving and other staff support them in everyday activities and blend into the environment, serving as grocery store clerks, hairdressers, bartenders, and neighbors.

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How Can We Help Boys and Young Men of Color Heal, Grow, and Thrive?

Apr 5, 2017, 9:00 AM, Posted by Maisha Simmons

A new effort will fund up to nine organizations committed to helping stem a systemic tide of trauma that boys and young men of color face. The ultimate goal is to bring healing and hope to a thriving new generation.

Young performers affiliated with North Philadelphia’s Village of Arts & Humanities. Young performers affiliated with North Philadelphia’s Village of Arts & Humanities. Photo credit © 2017 Danielle Miles. Courtesy of Forward Promise.

Violence was a mainstay in George Galvis’ life from as far back as he can remember: His earliest memory, from age 3, is of witnessing his father savagely attacking his mother. So it’s no surprise that he brought what he learned at home to the streets. That ended at age 17, when he was incarcerated for multiple felonies, including attempted murder for his involvement in a drive-by shooting.

Once he left prison, Galvis began a healing journey that led him to embrace his American Indian roots and reclaim his culture. It also steered him to college, where he studied hard and earned a degree. Now a youth activist and executive director of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, Galvis spends some of his time teaching young people how to heal from trauma. While it’s true that too often “hurt people, hurt people,” he says it’s equally true that “healed people, heal people.”

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Working Together to Take on the Opioid Crisis

Mar 29, 2017, 8:00 AM, Posted by Tim Soucy

Drug overdose deaths are fueling a dramatic increase in premature deaths nationally. This community is taking action—here’s how.

I’ve lived in Manchester, New Hampshire, my entire life and led the health department here for more than a decade. So for me, the opioid crisis that has hit the city and surrounding region hard feels like a very personal kick to the gut. Between 2003 and 2015, overdose deaths in Manchester increased 12-fold, and until recently, our emergency responders were seeing 60 to 70 suspected overdoses each month in this city of 110,000 people.

We’ve seen more and more in the news that the drug overdose epidemic has become a national crisis, and the 2017 County Health Rankings released today reveal the extent of its terrible impact. Drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of death in the United States among 25- to 44-year-olds, cutting short the lives of too many people and underlying a national rise in premature death rates.

Fueled largely by overdose deaths from opioid prescription drugs, heroin, and illegally manufactured fentanyl, the epidemic killed more than half a million people from 2000 to 2015.

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How Can We Design Communities Where Kids and Families Thrive?

Mar 23, 2017, 2:00 PM, Posted by Katie Wehr, Sara Cantor Aye

A new funding opportunity will engage teams in six selected communities to create healthier environments for kids and families.

How can we build healthier communities where children and families thrive?

Every community would likely answer this question differently.

And these unique approaches are exactly what RWJF and Greater Good Studio hope to leverage through a Call for Proposals (CFP) for a new project called Raising Places: Building Child-Centered Communities.

Six selected communities engaged in cross-sector collaboration will be awarded $60,000 each, along with support to take part in a process that identifies priorities, gathers diverse insights from residents and stakeholders, and tests and refines practical solutions for sustainable change. Greater Good Studio, which specializes in addressing social needs through human-centered design, will guide participating communities through this process.

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What You Need to Know About Hospital Roles in Community Investment

Mar 15, 2017, 2:00 PM, Posted by Donald F. Schwarz

Hospitals and health systems are well-positioned to invest resources in creating healthier communities—a few are already leading the way. Their valuable lessons can help others rethink the role hospitals can play in improving health beyond their walls.

Hospitals have a long tradition of serving their communities—not only by providing health care, but by hiring local workers and contractors, buying locally, and building new clinical facilities within their communities.

But you probably wouldn’t think of hospitals as financial investors in their local communities. Nor might you consider them experts in managing community revitalization efforts.

And yet, why not? After all, hospitals and health systems have unique assets that go far beyond their clinical offerings. These include deep community connections and relationships, the ability to make loans, expertise in real estate, finance, and project management, and significant property holdings. All of these can collectively be leveraged to benefit both the community at large and hospitals themselves.

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Four Ways Artists Can Help Heal Communities

Mar 2, 2017, 10:00 AM

Leaders from Louisville—one of seven winners of the 2016 Culture of Health Prize—share how artists can play a role in creating healthier, more equitable communities.

A mural on a brick wall. Smoketown Women's Mural by Steam Exchange and Smoketown community members.

Our Louisville, Kentucky, neighborhood of Smoketown sits across the street from the largest concentration of health care services in our state. Yet people here live 9 years less than the typical Louisville resident. Poverty, racism, unemployment and other social determinants of health have created this gap between residents of Smoketown and those from more affluent parts of the city.

An artist’s creativity has helped make that disparity concrete. Andrew CozzensSmoketown Life Line Project documents the impact of trauma on many aspects of people’s lives and health, as revealed through interviews with more than 20 local residents.

You see the impact in metal rods of different lengths—each representing the length of one community member’s life. Crimps in the rods marked with bands of color represent adverse experiences—violence (red), addiction (white), incarceration (black), trauma (blue)—showing how lives have, in effect, been shortened.

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The 500 Cities Project: New Data for Better Health

Feb 23, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by Oktawia Wojcik

For the first time ever, the CDC and CDC Foundation are providing city and neighborhood level data for 500 of the largest U.S. cities, making it possible to identify emerging health problems and effective interventions.

Old Colony YMCA in Brockton, Massachusetts recently discovered something startling: a single neighborhood more burdened by poor health such as asthma, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol than surrounding areas. Most surprising, however, was that this particular area had a lower prevalence of unhealthy behaviors like binge drinking than other locations within Brockton.

In the past, public health officials may have expended limited resources on the entire Brockton metropolitan area because they wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint the specific neighborhood facing the spike and determine why it was happening.

But since new data revealed that health behaviors were not the culprit, officials focused on partnering with regional organizations to address the social determinants of health. These include social and economic factors like unsafe streets, a lack of jobs, and limited availability of fresh, nutritious food.

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Helping Young People in Crisis, One Text at a Time

Feb 16, 2017, 8:00 AM, Posted by Tracy Costigan

Crisis Text Line uses technology to help adolescents struggling with issues like bullying and anxiety. Now, researchers are using data compiled through this effort to better understand and address patterns of adolescent mental health needs within communities.

It began with a shocking text message that left the staff at DoSomething.org deeply shaken.

The non-profit organization was originally created to promote youth volunteer and social action opportunities. It uses texting—the primary way in which teens communicate—to send thousands of daily messages alerting members to clothing drives, health fairs, park clean-ups, and more. Responses have been common. In addition to the usual sign-up requests, texters have also sought advice on how to handle a bully at school or help a friend struggling with addiction.

But as DoSomething’s CEO Nancy Lublin explained in a memorable TED Talk, one particular message from an anonymous girl changed their world.

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Seeking Evidence for How Policy Can Improve Health

Feb 7, 2017, 9:00 AM, Posted by Kerry Anne McGeary, Mona Shah

$2 million in research funding is available to non-profit or public research institutions that can build an evidence base for how policies, laws, and guidelines can help everyone live a healthier life.

There are countless examples of how policies, laws, and guidelines can help people in our society live better and healthier lives. For example, zoning ordinances can help keep dangerous manufacturing emissions away from homes and schools, ensuring that children aren’t exposed to toxic pollutants. Earned Income Tax Credits have been shown to improve infant mortality and birth outcomes. Healthy food guidelines can help our kids consume less sugar by recommending schools provide whole foods, like apples. These policies shape how we live, learn, work, and play.

But there is still too much we don’t know. If your organization is a non-profit or public research institution, this is where you come in.

Through a new call for proposals from its Policies for Action (P4A) program, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) seeks to build a stronger evidence base for how policies, laws, and guidelines—in the public or private sectors—can help ensure everyone has the opportunity to live a healthier life.

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