Can Learning Social Skills in School Pay Off Beyond the Classroom?

Sep 5, 2017, 1:00 PM, Posted by Mark Greenberg, Tracy Costigan

Social emotional skills can help students set goals for themselves and build positive relationships with peers. They can also lead to long-term societal benefits that extend far beyond the individual child.

Students use an interactive screen to communicate feelings.

At an elementary school in the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin, the school day starts in an unusual way. Before they do anything else, students sit down at a classroom computer and select the face that best matches how they feel that morning.

If they’re feeling upbeat, they pick a green, smiling face. If they’re upset about something, there’s a red sad face. And if they feel somewhere in the middle there’s a yellow neutral face. This exercise helps these students develop self-awareness and emotional management skills. It also helps teachers recognize which students are having a tough day and where they might need help.

Ryan Coffey, a teacher and counselor at the Wisconsin school, calls this simple check-in an incredible tool that “can change the whole day.”

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Helping Students Save For—and Stay in—College

Aug 30, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by James McGowan

A higher education degree has a big impact on future health. Here’s how one man is leveraging his personal experience to help students pursue a brighter future.

A young woman receives a diploma at her graduation ceremony.

Like many of the college-bound students I counsel at Normandy High School in Wellston, Mo., I was a first-generation college student. Thrilled to head off to Georgia Tech on a full scholarship, I had no idea I wasn’t actually getting a full ride with all costs paid for. Suddenly, I found myself on the hook for room and board, books, and other expenses. I took out loans, but they weren’t enough. I maxed out my credit cards. It took me years to pay off the debt.

I share this story with my students as a cautionary tale and to underscore the value of Viking Advantage, the college savings and preparation program they participate in. Each student in the program gets a college savings account called an Individual Development Account (IDA). For every dollar they save for college, up to $500, they get an additional $3 from my organization, Beyond Housing, and its funding partners—for a maximum total of $2,000. When students head to college, the money is sent directly to the college bookstore or cashier’s office for tuition, textbooks, dorm deposits, room and board, and supplies they need for classes.

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How Lessons From Abroad Are Uplifting Youth In the United States

Aug 23, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by Jennifer Ng'andu

Creative programs in Latin America are inspiring U.S. communities to pursue similar approaches that connect young adults to education and employment.

International Youth Foundation

Like many high school graduates in Brazil, Caroline was eager to find a job. She desperately needed money to continue her studies and pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. But two years after graduating, she was still unemployed. Caroline eventually managed to improve her job prospects in an unlikely way—through drawing, dance and breath work.

Intent on breaking free from a family history of women who weren’t able to get good jobs or finish high school, Caroline discovered a job training program run by Rede Cidadã (The Citizen Network). The non-profit organization connects youth to jobs and apprenticeships throughout Brazil, where the youth unemployment rate is nearly 25 percent.

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Honoring Tradition to Support Tribal Health

Aug 3, 2017, 10:00 AM, Posted by Jamie Judkins

Twenty-five years ago, the future of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe was in jeopardy. Today, they are looking at seven generations: back three generations, the present, and forward three generations. Here is how they are ‘pulling together’ for health.

Wood paneled wall with Native American portraits.

My tribe sees life within the frame of seven generations: The current generation is shaped by the experience of people three generations before and tasked with setting the course for three generations to come.

That’s why I summoned the stamina needed to paddle a canoe for eight days last summer in a tradition that binds our generations. I joined thousands of men, women, teens and children from my tribe—Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe—as well as our neighbors from the Chinook Indian Nation, to paddle together in a dugout canoe for 200 miles. It was an annual journey with deep roots in our culture and history. I learned what it really means to pull together. You get into a rhythm with your team, and you move forward.

That’s what we’re trying to do for our community’s health, too.

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Five Nurses Share Why They Pursued Research Careers

Jul 19, 2017, 10:00 AM, Posted by Maryjoan Ladden, Susan Hassmiller

Schools with research-focused PhD programs in nursing are now eligible to apply for the Future of Nursing Scholars program. Five trailblazing researchers from the program share how their diverse careers are transforming health care and why others should join them.


Caseworker sits with mother and baby on a couch.

As a nurse practitioner at a community health center on Chicago’s West Side, Jewel Scott loved her job, even though helping her patients heal sometimes felt like an uphill battle. Many of her mostly African-American or Latino patients suffered from type 2 diabetes, yet couldn’t afford insulin or struggled to keep appointments due to jobs without flexible schedules. Most had endured difficult childhoods marked by poverty and violence.

One such patient changed the path of Scott’s life. A young woman came in with symptoms of a urinary tract infection. During the visit, Scott discovered that patient had untreated type 2 diabetes—just like her father—and a dangerously high blood sugar level.

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How Multi-Sector Health Partnerships Evolve

Jul 10, 2017, 2:00 PM, Posted by Emmy Ganos

Strong partnerships spanning an array of sectors—including public health, housing, education, transportation and others—are the bedrocks of healthy communities. How do they evolve and what makes them successful?

Professionals talking in a meeting.

When Mercer Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey, planned to close its doors more than 10 years ago, many in the community were alarmed by the likely impact on health services available to the city’s large, low-income population. Encouraged by Mayor Douglas Palmer and the State Department of Health, two hospitals, a federally-qualified health center, and the city health department came together to consider how best to meet the needs of Trenton residents.

At the time, many of these providers knew one another more as competitors than as collaborators. But they recognized a shared commitment to Trenton’s most vulnerable residents and set aside potential rivalries to form the Trenton Health Team. Today, that team links more than 60 behavioral, social service, educational, and faith-based organizations to pursue better community health outcomes.

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Ending Homelessness, One Person at a Time

Jun 22, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by Maggie Willis

Santa Monica has been one of the first U.S. cities to use homeless statistics in identifying those who most urgently need care and services. They share five key lessons from their efforts.

Homeless individual in California

When people think of us, many envision a wealthy beach community dotted with hip boutiques and bistros overlooking beautiful sunsets.

But here in Santa Monica we face stark, complicated issues—including homelessness—like any other city. In fact after seven years of stability, our homeless population spiked significantly this year (2017) to 921. This is a 26 percent increase over 2016. It’s part of a regional homelessness crisis in Los Angeles County, which also saw a 23 percent increase that stems from a lack of affordable housing.

Believe it or not, the problem was once even worse. In 2005, we counted nearly 2,000 people experiencing homelessness!

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How Prepared is Your Community for an Emergency?

May 24, 2017, 3:00 PM, Posted by Alonzo L. Plough, Michelle Larkin

America’s preparedness for managing health emergencies is improving, yet progress is slow and regional inequities persist. Miami-Dade County shows us that actively engaging communities is key to improving local health security.

Relief workers walking past rubble after a tornado.

Hurricanes and tornados, Zika and Ebola, wildfires and flash floods, terrorist attacks and tainted water systems. Threats to American health security are on the rise and could hit U.S. communities at any time. The responsibility for preparing for potential threats and keeping people safe doesn’t fall on any one official or institution but on diverse and diffuse government agencies, health care organizations, public health, non-profit organizations, business leaders and community members.

Since 2013, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has been measuring how ready our nation is to face emergencies that threaten health and well-being through the National Health Security Preparedness Index (Preparedness Index).

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The Man in the Red Cross Blanket

May 17, 2017, 9:00 AM, Posted by Susan Hassmiller

In this personal essay, Sue Hassmiller shares how an ICU nurse helped her face the most difficult milestone of her life—and discover a deeper meaning of a Culture of Health.

A nurse enters a hospital through the Emergency entrance.

Editor’s note: In September 2016, Bob Hassmiller, beloved husband of our own Sue Hassmiller, our senior adviser for nursing, was involved in a bicycle accident that left him critically injured and ultimately took his life. We asked Sue to share her story—and she very graciously agreed—because we believe that a Culture of Health is possible even when people are at their very sickest. She tells us how.

My life is separated into two time periods: Before my husband’s accident—and after.

Bob and I were married for 37 years, and he was, in every aspect, my best friend. While I traveled frequently for work—work I am very passionate about—Bob was the person I came home to, my bedrock, my backstop and my biggest fan. We knew each other as only two married people who have been together for so long can. And we relied on each other for our very different strengths.

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Rich Besser’s Journey of Service

May 11, 2017, 11:00 AM, Posted by Najaf Ahmad

From his Princeton roots to his experiences as a pediatrician, public health practitioner and journalist, Rich Besser shares stories and lessons from a career dedicated to service in this Q&A.

Richard Besser stands near a mural at RWJF in Princeton, N.J.

Rich Besser was a fourth-year medical student when he found himself performing his first (and last!) solo emergency Cesarean section at a hospital tucked within a rural Himalayan village in Manali, India.

He had come to Lady Willingdon Hospital eager to learn about health problems facing people within the developing world, and worked under a gifted local surgeon, Dr. George “Laji” Varghese. Providing care for the underserved population there was no small feat. For instance, the power would often go out during surgeries, requiring someone to hold a flashlight over the operating table.

Dr. Laji one day left Rich in charge as he departed for a week-long meeting. Before leaving, as a precaution, he walked Rich through how to perform an emergency Cesarean section since they were high up in the mountains and hours away from the next health care facility.

Sure enough, a few days later a woman who’d struggled through labor for over a day arrived. A senior nurse noted that the baby’s heart didn’t sound good.

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