Lessons from Culture of Health Prize Winners in the Northeast

Oct 26, 2016, 4:00 PM, Posted by Amy Slonim

Past prize-winners recently convened to discuss their experiences. They share powerful lessons on how they are improving health and health equity within their communities.  

Community members shake hands and speak with a police officer.

We started the day with an icebreaker.

“I harness the collective power of leaders, partners, and community members,” read the moderator.

“That’s me!” shouted the group of several dozen people gathered on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., for a reunion of sorts. They came from diverse sectors and systems—from health care, education, nonprofits and government agencies—and their communities all had this in common: They are past winners of the RWJF Culture of Health Prize.

Each year, RWJF honors and elevates U.S. communities that are making great strides in their journey to better health and well-being. So far, 27 places—cities, counties, tribes, and more—across the country have claimed the distinction of receiving the Prize.

This year, communities across the United States have until November 3rd to apply for the Prize. Winners will receive up to $25,000 and have their stories spread broadly to inspire others toward locally-driven change.

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Parents Need Flexible and Affordable Child Care

Oct 18, 2016, 10:00 AM, Posted by Kristin Schubert

Child care plays a critical role during the formative years and is key to familial stability. A new poll illustrates the challenges that parents face in accessing quality, affordable child care, and the opportunities for improvement.

Children eat a healthy snack at school.

I remember how it felt when I returned to work after the birth of my first son. Trying to figure out child care was confusing, overwhelming, and downright stressful. Of course I wanted the very best care for my baby, but I didn’t know what “high quality” really looked like. Our first arrangement was with a nearby woman who cared for a few other children in her home. Pretty quickly, I decided it wasn’t the right fit. I cobbled together a mix of family and part-time care while searching for a new solution. I am so grateful I had friends, family, and a supportive work environment to pull this off. I then tried in-home care, hiring a string of visiting nannies, none of which worked out. One of them quit with no notice, leaving me in a very difficult position at work.

Then I found what seemed like a great center-based program, and was prepared to sign up. But as I left the building after my initial visit, I bumped into a friend who had a bad experience there and advised looking elsewhere. What if she was right? I couldn’t take the chance, so I kept searching, relying on the generosity of family in the meantime.

Eventually I found a center that worked out. I felt my baby was nurtured and well-cared for, but the costs were enormous, and frankly, to this day I am still not sure if it was truly “high quality.”

A poll released yesterday by NPR, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds that parents and caregivers, like me, recognize the value of high quality child care and early education experiences.

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How a Swedish Model of Care is Making an Impact in the U.S.

Oct 5, 2016, 9:35 AM, Posted by Laura Leviton, Susan Mende

Disease registries designed to support clinical research can be reimagined to create a new and more effective kind of patient-centered care. Just take a look at Sweden.

The Karolinska Institutet building in Sweden. The Karolinksa Institutet in Solna, Sweden. Photo by Pelle Sten via Flickr.

Large-scale collection of patient data into disease-specific databases, or registries, is vital to research. These registries house standardized information on patients’ diagnoses, care, and outcomes, supporting large-scale comparison and analysis which can lead to better population health management and interventions. But can disease registries also help to move us closer to patient-centered care?

We’re learning from examples overseas that, with the help of new interactive technologies, they can.

Sweden created a disease registry for rheumatology that is much more than a data storage house. The Swedish Rheumatology Quality Registry (SRQ) is an interactive tool that helps patients and doctors prepare for and make better use of their office visits. It helps them to work like a team—to “co-produce” care together.

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What Healthy School Foods Mean to My Family

Sep 29, 2016, 11:00 AM, Posted by Monica Hobbs Vinluan

Kids eat up to half their daily calories at school. Today school foods are healthier than ever, and that means a brighter future for our kids.

Students offered healthy foods in school cafeteria.

A truly pivotal moment in my life was when I first joined my daughter Riley for a school lunch date in 2009 when she entered first grade.

We walked through a lunch line that swirled with unhealthy options. Mashed potatoes floated in pools of gravy and ice cream was the most popular item on the menu. Healthy foods were hard to come by—the line was dominated by sweets, chips and other snacks. I was stunned as both a parent and someone who spent my working hours trying to create healthier conditions for kids to thrive in.

Riley is 13 years old now, and my son Reese is 11. Over the years, I’ve continued to meet both of my kids at school for lunch. I’m happy to share, firsthand, how updated nutrition standards and lunchroom champions have transformed our school meal times into something we are excited about!

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Evaluating a Ten-Year Effort to Transform Health Care

Sep 21, 2016, 3:20 PM, Posted by Anne Weiss, Brian C. Quinn

An evaluation of RWJF’s quality improvement initiative, Aligning Forces for Quality, uncovers barriers that health collectives face and how successful cultural shifts have helped transform health systems.

AF4Q report map

I believe a unique opportunity for a philanthropic organization is to explore the big ideas. We have a freedom that few others have to really experiment and innovate. Even to take big risks in our grant making sometimes. Often, the rewards are insights they offer a glimpse of how our nation can address some of the most pressing challenges facing our society.  Aligning Forces for Quality is an example of this philosophy in action.”  —Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 

In 2006, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) launched a bold, ten year experiment that became one of its largest philanthropic investments—the Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q) initiative which sought to lift the overall quality, equality, and value of health care in 16 communities across the country.

In each AF4Q community, a regional alliance of doctors, patients, consumers, insurers, and employers worked collaboratively to transform their local health care system. Lessons from these transformations were then used to develop national models for reform. Alliances were tasked with addressing five “forces” to enhance quality while reducing costs:

  • performance measurement and reporting
  • quality improvement
  • engaging consumers in their health and health care
  • reducing health care disparities
  • reforming payment

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Investing in the Next Generation of Health-Focused Leaders

Sep 12, 2016, 9:00 AM, Posted by Pam S. Dickson

Collaboration—among people who don’t traditionally work together on a daily basis and who bring unique perspectives—carries the best potential to solve today's complex health and social issues effectively and equitably.

A meeting facilitator refers to a bar chart.

Looking out upon the worshippers at New Era Church in downtown Indianapolis, Rev. Dr. Clarence C. Moore sees row after row of families facing difficult challenges stemming from a pressing statewide problem: the over-incarceration of black people. Indiana ranks second in the country for the number of children who have an incarcerated parent. As a result, many children live in single-parent households or foster care, and live in poverty. Many lack a formal education until they reach kindergarten—and so they aren’t ready when they get there. They struggle, many ultimately drop out of school, and the vicious cycle continues.

“I tell my congregation that there is nothing wrong with these seeds—these children,” Rev. Moore says. “It’s the soil these seeds are planted in that is the problem.”

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Help Make Research More Transparent and More Accessible

Sep 7, 2016, 9:31 AM, Posted by Margaret Tait, Oktawia Wojcik

Opening up access to research has the potential breed innovation and maximize impact, reaching a wider audience that can apply knowledge towards building a Culture of Health.  

Open Access in Research PHOTO: h_pampel via flickr

Tradition in almost any discipline can be a solid foundation on which to soar, but it can also be confining, an easy excuse to tamp down on new ideas. When we think about how science advances, there is something to be said for giving tradition its due while also having the flexibility to embrace new approaches. 

Historically, researchers have shielded their data, methods, tools, and findings until they have been submitted for peer review and published in an academic journal. The publisher has generally then made the articles available only to readers with a subscription.

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What I Learned from Scaling Playworks into a National Movement

Aug 30, 2016, 9:28 AM, Posted by Jill Vialet

Jill Vialet’s idea to transform the school day through the power of play started with just two schools and now serves more than 1,300 nationwide. The CEO and founder of Playworks shares the tough lessons she learned about scale during her journey.

A young girl cleans up equipment after recess.

I was visiting an elementary school back in 1996 when the frazzled principal desperately turned to me and asked if I could “do something” about what was happening at recess. Just moments before I arrived she had reprimanded three fifth grade boys in her office for fighting on the playground. It clearly wasn’t the first time they had been there for the same offense.

I was originally there to discuss an artist residency program for a children’s art museum I was running in Oakland, California. Instead, I listened to the principal lament how recess had become the most dreaded part of the school day. Kids were getting into trouble, getting hurt, and feeling left out. As far as this principal was concerned, the real tragedy was the distraction from teaching and learning, something she just couldn’t accept.

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6 Reasons Why Parks Matter for Health

Aug 22, 2016, 1:45 PM, Posted by Teresa Mozur

As the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary of beauty, recreation, and conservation this summer, we asked six leaders why access to public land is vital to everyone's physical and mental health.

A couple looking at the mountains. Yosemite National Park

The National Park Service celebrates its centennial this week, and our national parks have never been more appreciated; visitors made a record-breaking 307.2 million visits to them in 2015. But what many park goers may not realize is that the access to natural scenery and park activities national parks provide play a role in improving health. In fact, research shows that using public parks—even tiny local ones in your neighborhood—contributes to health in a number of ways, from promoting physical activity to improving mental health and even having the potential to reduce health care costs.

To celebrate this milestone in American history, the Culture of Health blog's editorial team asked six leaders to give us their reasons why parks matter for health.

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How Social Spending Affects Health Outcomes

Aug 17, 2016, 9:00 AM, Posted by Elizabeth H. Bradley, Lauren A. Taylor

The United States spends more on health care than any other developed nation, yet a recent study suggests social services could have a greater impact on health outcomes.

A hundred dollar bill. Modified image. Original photo by Ervins Strauhmanis.

In a recent blog post for The New York Times, Dr. Dhruv Khullar, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, detailed important—and importantly nonmedical—barriers to health that he had witnessed in his patients: a man who couldn’t fathom worrying about his blood pressure when he needed to find food and a place to sleep, a diabetic without reliable access to a refrigerator to store insulin, a mother fretting that mold and cockroaches in her apartment were exacerbating her son’s asthma. Medical care might be necessary for these patients. But that care alone is unlikely to be sufficient.

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