Sickness Prevention Achieved Through Regional Collaboration

Every year, the Anthology features one chapter that takes a close look at an innovative community-level program and individuals who have worked to improve health locally. The preceding five volumes of the Anthology have contained chapters on programs to provide services for homeless pregnant women in San Francisco, prevent violence in crime-ridden Chicago neighborhoods, train inner-city high school and middle school students to run the Los Angeles Marathon, curb alcohol addiction among Native Americans in Gallup, N.M., and open a high school exclusively for addicted teenagers in Albuquerque.

This year is no exception. In this chapter, Paul Brodeur, an award-winning former feature writer on health and the environment for The New Yorker and a frequent Anthology contributor, tells the story of SPARC (Sickness Prevention Achieved Through Regional Collaboration), a program designed to bring preventive health care services to individuals living in the tri-state area of eastern New York, northwestern Connecticut, and southwestern Massachusetts. Largely the creation of physician Douglas Shenson, SPARC provided primary care services in a number of innovative ways, such as its “Vote and Vax” campaign that referred senior citizens for vaccinations as they were approaching or leaving polling places on Election day.

The Local Initiative Funding Partners program, a collaborative effort between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and local foundations that support creative community health efforts, funded the program. The idea behind Local Initiatives is to leverage the resources and know-how of local foundations, and to develop opportunities for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to identify promising ideas that emerge from local leadership and creativity.