Foundation Blogs Round-up: Health Reform, Global Health, HIV/AIDS, End-of-Life Care, & more


June 23rd, 2011
by Lee-Lee Prina

I have put together a listing here of some foundation-related blog posts that you may want to check out. Now that summer has arrived, perhaps things are slowing down in your workplace, and you now have time for some professional reading! Links to a wide variety of posts follow.

Incidentally, if you work for a foundation and its blog is not listed on GrantWatch Blog’s “Blogroll,” please let me know about it.

Global Health

“Lessons from Zambia: Malaria Can Be Stopped,” Kent Campbell of PATH (an international nonprofit organization), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Foundation Blog, June 21.

“Using Search Patterns to Track Dengue Fever,” Vikram Sahai, Official google.org Blog, May 30.

Health Care for the Elderly

Mental Health:

“Monika Eckfield: Helping Hoarders,” Rachael Watman of the John A. Hartford Foundation in its Health AGEnda blog, June 16. The post contains an interview with a nurse who received a Building Academic Geriatric Nursing Capacity “predoctoral scholarship award in 2004 to 2006 to study the effects of hoarding behaviors in older adults.”

Health Reform

Exchanges:

“Exchange No ‘Slam Dunk’ for the Safety Net,” Barb Ladon of Arpegio Health (a health care consulting company), Colorado Health Foundation’s Health Relay blog, June 16.

“State Health Insurance Exchange Legislation: A Progress Report,” Sara R. Collins and Tracy Garber of the Commonwealth Fund, Commonwealth Fund Blog, June 16. This post includes a handy color-coded map, based on data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, on “the status of state legislation to establish exchanges.”

Role of Foundations:

“We Need Foundations to Innovate in Health Care,” Paul Gionfriddo (a blogger in Florida and former president of the Quantum Foundation), Our Health Policy Matters blog, June 8. Gionfriddo refreshes this blog on Wednesdays.

Home Health Care

“Tools for the Home Health Care Transition,” Deborah Center of the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence, Colorado Trust CommunityConnections blog, June 15. In this useful and concise post, Center writes about an effort funded by a Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Northwest Health Foundation, along with matching funding from the trust, Caring for Colorado Foundation, and the Colorado Health Foundation.

HIV/AIDS

“The Drug War Must End: More Evidence from Thailand,” Kathleen Kingsbury, Open Society Foundations Blog, June 21. Kingsbury is a communications officer at Open Society Foundations and a former staff writer at Time magazine.

Medicare

“Making Sense of Medicare,” Martha Bauman, Endowment for Health’s InSight blog, May 6. Bauer is on the advisory board of this foundation in New Hampshire and is a columnist for the Keene (N.H.) Sentinel newspaper.

Non-foundation blog:

“Saving Medicare,” Vanessa Hurley, New America Foundation’s New Health Dialogue blog, June 3. Hurley is an analyst in New America’s Health Policy Program.

Palliative and End-of-Life Care

“Making Hard Decisions Easier,” Amy Berman of the John A. Hartford Foundation in its Health AGEnda blog, June 7. This popular blogger, who has been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, relates more of her experiences with the health care system. Here, she discusses advance directives, including the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form, which the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), is disseminating.

“This Week in PubHub: Palliative/End-of-Life Care,” Kyoko Uchida of the Foundation Center, Philanthropy News Digest’s PhilanTopic blog, June 3. Uchida writes about reports funded by the RWJF, CHCF, and Open Society Foundations.

Substance Abuse

“Recover Alaska,” Bill Hogan of Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Rasmuson Foundation’s RF Blog: Reflect. Share, May 31. This post on an initiative funded by Rasmuson, the Mat-Su Health Foundation, and the trust authority, includes some thoughts from Steve Schroeder, former president of the RWJF, whom many of you may remember. He is now at the University of California, San Francisco.

Telehealth

“Telehealth: The Doctor Is in . . Another City,” Matt Perry, California Health Report, June 6. This blog is part of HealthyCal.org, which has initial funding from the California Endowment. “Once strictly termed telemedicine, today’s expansive definition of telehealth includes a variety of distance services,” Perry says.

Arizona Health Survey: More than Just Numbers, Foundation Finds


June 15th, 2011
by Kim VanPelt

Read how community-based organizations can use results of a foundation-funded health survey.

On June 2, St. Luke’s Health Initiatives (SLHI) presented information about and findings from the 2010 Arizona Health Survey to an audience of more than 100 community-based organizations in our state. Our aim was to share with these community leaders how that data could help them identify local needs and inform their planning and program implementation. What we learned in the process surprised us–and likely provides important lessons for us all.

The Arizona Health Survey is SLHI’s ambitious effort to collect and disseminate data to help policy makers and staff of community-based organizations glean a better understanding of how the many facets of health are interrelated. During summer 2010, we conducted separate, but similar telephone surveys of more than 8,200 adults and of 2,100 parents of young children on a wide variety of health-related questions. These questions addressed individual physical and mental health status, health behaviors, health insurance coverage, neighborhoods, food and housing security, economic status, family support, child development, early child care and education, and social connectedness. The surveys’ large sample sizes give us a unique opportunity to provide meaningful data at a local or regional level.

Many of those attending were eagerly anticipating using the data in their work. These community-based organization staffers talked about how this information might help them seek funding. They discussed how it could help them complete community needs assessments and target their services or programs. One person even noted that the survey would save their organization more than a year’s worth of work, allowing them to avoid performing their own narrowly focused survey. The attendees reaffirmed our belief that supporting the collection and dissemination of data is an important role that funders can play, enriching decision making and strategy development at the local level.

Still other attendees expressed interest in many of the findings from the survey. There was great interest, for example, in how access to health care looks different depending on the region in which you live or your race or ethnicity. Many were also surprised to see which groups are likely to be engaged in unhealthy behaviors, such as the high number of older adults using prescription drugs off-label (that is, using a drug for purposes not approved for safety and efficacy by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and the higher proportion of affluent families providing young children fat-ridden whole milk.

While most of those attending enthusiastically embraced the data and began to determine how they might be used in their work, more than a handful of organizations said that they could not conceive of a use for the data.  It was not that they lacked the capability to analyze the data. We had planned for that–making clear that we could provide any technical assistance needed to crunch the data to fit an organization’s specific needs. Instead, these organizations simply could not envision how data might help inform their work and could not come up with questions that this rich data set could help answer. This surprised us.

Increasingly, public and private funders are placing emphasis on data-driven planning and decision making. At the same time, there is increased emphasis on working with community-based organizations as a means of addressing health disparities and implementing community-based approaches to improving health. Indeed, applications for many new federal grants explicitly encourage such partnerships–or allow local community groups to apply for these grants directly. There may be a lot of wisdom in such approaches, given the fact that community-based organizations often have connections and competencies needed to engage and assist otherwise hard-to-reach people.

Nonetheless, it is also important to remember that important work still needs to be done before some community groups are ready to fill these roles. Until these organizations are adept at assessment, planning, and implementation, it is difficult to imagine how they might be able to fully realize their potential to address local health needs and disparities.

Just as funders need to improve their understanding of the social, cultural, and environmental context of many health issues, community-based organizations need to develop the competencies in analysis that are expected by both public and private funders. Funders (including SLHI) should play a role in educating these organizations on how to think critically about planning and program implementation if we want them to be successful.

What Are Foundations and Others Doing to Help Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families?


June 13th, 2011
by Lee-Lee Prina

News coverage around the recent Memorial Day holiday reminded us of the sacrifices veterans have made. Here is just a sampling of what foundations are doing to help them, our military, and their families.

Recent grant:

“Through a Welcome Back Veterans Grant, Emory and Atlanta Braves to Launch BraveHeart: Welcome Back Veterans Southeast Initiative on Memorial Day,” Emory University’s Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center press release, May 26. This new initiative is “a screening, assessment and service program designed to provide veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan access to mental health and counseling services.”

Providing help for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will be a big part of the initiative. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD “is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened.” Traumatic events that may trigger it include military combat, the agency states.

This initiative to help veterans in the southeastern United States was “created thanks to a $1 million grant” from Welcome Back Veterans, an initiative of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Major League Baseball Charities, the university said. The grant was awarded to Emory. BraveHeart will use online self-assessment tools for vets and provide continuing education and outreach to primary care physicians throughout the region, including rural areas. (Readers: Please note that the McCormick Foundation does not have a health program. Read more here.)

Barbara Rothbaum, a professor of psychiatry at Emory’s medical school and leading PTSD researcher, directs BraveHeart, which is just one site of the national Welcome Back Veterans initiative, which addresses this disorder. A national public-private partnership, the initiative includes Major League Baseball Charities and the McCormick Foundation, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Department of Defense, Entertainment Industry Foundation, and others. The Atlanta Braves Foundation (the baseball team’s nonprofit arm) will help the Georgia-based initiative with fundraising and by hosting vets and their families at games.

Watch a video about BraveHeart: http://bit.ly./braveheartsoutheast, or visit http://www.BraveHeartVeterans.org.

Commentaries

“Nearly 25% of New York State’s veterans returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder,” Jim Knickman and Jacqueline Martinez write. In their May 18 post on the Huffington Post blog, “Serving the Military Families Who Serve New York State,” they suggest how community-based organizations, businesses, government, private foundations, and corporations can help to prepare “communities and families to welcome, embrace, and support the brave men and women who defend this country.” They note that a “shared effort” is needed—by the VA, as well as plenty of others, including health care providers, community health centers, and schools. Knickman is a foundation president and chief executive officer (CEO): he leads the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth). Martinez is a senior program director there. By the way, the statistic they cite on depression and PTSD is from a RAND study, which was funded by NYSHealth and released in January 2011.

Read about NYSHealth’s Initiative for Returning Veterans and Their Families.

“How we rebuild, care for, and honor [veterans] who step into the breach is the most poignant illustration of [America’s] values,” says Gary Yates, president and CEO of the California Wellness Foundation. This quote is from his  “Honoring Veterans through Philanthropy,” a periodic President’s Message from the foundation. Yates mentions several charitable groups that help military personnel and their families. He describes the genesis of Fisher Houses, which house family members of hospitalized military personnel and are located around the United States, as well as the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Swords to Plowshares, and United through Reading.

Yates comments that he now cochairs the nonpartisan, national Voices for Philanthropy, “a campaign to tell the positive story of American philanthropy.” Of course, “philanthropy” encompasses giving for a wide variety of causes, he explains. (And he means “giving” in its broader sense—giving of time, talent, or financial resources.)

Yates’s piece originally appeared as an op-ed in the May 29, 2011, edition of the Washington (D.C.) Examiner newspaper. The foundation notes that Yates is a veteran.

Editor’s note: Yates previously announced his plans to retire from the foundation, based in Woodland Hills, California, as of December 31, 2011. The executive search firm of Morris and Berger is conducting a search for his successor. Think you may be qualified for the job? Read the position description here.

Announcement of government contract:

Veteran-Directed Home and Community-Based Services Program. This program aims “to help veterans of all ages and disabilities [to] stay out of nursing homes and live independently at home in their communities,” according to a January 2011 e-alert from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. A partnership of the VA, the U.S. Administration on Aging, and Boston College’s (BC’s) National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services, the program allows disabled veterans to have some autonomy in their care. It uses participant-directed services. (I want to clarify that the RWJF has not awarded funding specified for this program to help veterans. However, the National Resource Center receives general operating support from both the RWJF and the Atlantic Philanthropies.)

Under a contract from the VA’s Veterans Health Administration, received in October 2010, the center provides training and technical assistance to staffers at VA medical centers, so that they, in turn, can help vets who enroll in the program.

Enrollees “manage their own flexible spending budgets” for personal care services. These veterans (1) decide for themselves what services they need most; (2) hire and supervise people who can assist them (such assistants can even be family members or friends); and (3) buy products or services “that help them live more independently,” the e-alert explained.

“In addition to the growing aging Veteran population who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, the number of young and severely injured Veterans returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan who need support at home continues to rise,” a BC press release reminds us.

This program for veterans is similar to a now-closed RWJF national grant program called Cash and Counseling, which introduced the alternative of participant-directed services into some state Medicaid programs. The grant program, which ran for ten years, received major funding from the RWJF. (The federal government and the Retirement Research Foundation also provided funding for that program.) The states that were RWJF grantees, however, continue to operate their individual Cash and Counseling programs through Medicaid or state funding.

Related Health Affairs article:

Read the abstract of an article on Cash and Counseling: “New State Strategies to Meet Long-Term Care Needs,” by Pamela Doty and coauthors, Health Affairs, January 2010.

Related resources on veterans and philanthropic efforts to help them:

Blue Shield of California Foundation, which has awarded grants to help military families and families of veterans, under its Blue Shield Against Violence program.

Civilians for Veterans Fund. This group, which former Colorado First Lady Jeannie Ritter helped create, “provides mental health services to armed services members returning from war zones and their families,” according to an article in the Colorado Health Foundation’s Spring 2011 Health Elevations journal. As described in the article, the organization is a collaboration of private funders, [Colorado’s] community mental health centers, and the VA. I read on the Civilians for Veterans website that a donor-advised fund of the Rose Community Foundation, in Denver, “has made a generous donation to begin the program and is committed to seeking additional funding through a variety of sources.” At least initially, the organization seemed especially interested in helping veterans in rural areas of the state. Now, the article notes, it “is expanding its network to nearly all of Colorado,” and “its approach has been adopted as a national model” by the VA.

“Grant Makers Stand Up to Support Military Veterans,” Debra E. Blum, Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 31, 2010. This article, available to subscribers only, notes that “in recent years, a handful of foundations have taken on veterans affairs as a new grant-making priority, and at least a couple of brand-new grant makers have been created that focus on military causes.” Blum continues, “More commonly, though, grant makers that support organizations fighting an array of social problems, like homelessness or domestic violence, are starting to recognize that service members, veterans, and their families are often a critical and distinct part of the populations they serve.”

“Retail Magnate Backs Care for Brain-Injured Veterans,” Philanthropy Today blog, Dec. 27. Read about Project Share, founded by Bernard (“Bernie”) Marcus, “who amassed a fortune” with the Home Depot chain. (He cofounded Home Depot, according to the company’s website.) More information is available in a ProPublica/National Public Radio story in Atlanta Unfiltered.

“Serving Our Veterans: Filling the Gaps in Military Mental Health,” Grantmakers In Health (GIH) Issue Focus, February 11, 2008. This two-pager originally accompanied a GIH audioconference back in November 2007, so some parts of it may be outdated. But there is still some good information here, such as ideas of what foundations can do to help.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.va.gov/

“VA Infection Issues Lead to 13,000 Veterans’ Tests: Improper Hygiene May Have Exposed Patients to HIV, Hepatitis, or Other Blood-Borne Disease,” Dan Sewell of the Associated Press, on TODAY.com, updated May 29. The Dayton VA Medical Center is among the hospitals mentioned here and is the focus of another AP article, which appeared on NECN.com, “New Head of Dayton VA Center Wants to Improve Care.” (A thank you to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s Kaiser Health News for pointing me to these stories.)

The Three Most-Read GrantWatch Blog Posts during May 2011


June 7th, 2011
by Lee-Lee Prina

Below we have listed the three most-read posts. Take a look in case you missed them when the original tweets and e-alerts mentioning them were sent out.

1. “Southern Foundations Discuss PACE: Comprehensive Care to Help Elderly Age in Place,” by Tina Markanda (May 6).

Markanda, a program officer at the Duke Endowment, writes about a recent webinar on the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), “an evidence-based model of care.” PACE, which uses a capitated payment method, allows the elderly “to remain in the community and to ‘age in place.’” Markanda mentions PACE activity in North Carolina and discusses why foundations should consider funding this care model. The Southeastern Council on Foundations sponsored the webinar for people participating in the EngAGEment Initiative (funded by Grantmakers In Aging and the Atlantic Philanthropies).

2. “New Article: What Foundations Are Funding in Environmental Health,” by Lee-Lee Prina (May 12).

This post announces the publication of a peer-reviewed GrantWatch article in the May 2011 issue of Health Affairs. Written by Karla Fortunato and Kathy Sessions of the Health and Environmental Funders Network (HEFN), the article is a good round-up piece on which foundations have been awarding grants in the area of environmental health and what they have been funding. The authors do a good job of organizing their topic of “Philanthropy at the Intersection of Health and the Environment.”

By the way, that May issue of the journal is a thematic issue on environmental health and was funded with the generous support of the Kresge Foundation.

3. “Fighting Mental Illness: A Call to Action for Foundations,” by Paul Gionfriddo (April 27).

Gionfriddo, an independent consultant and blogger (who is the former president of the Quantum Foundation in West Palm Beach, Florida, and a former Connecticut state legislator) alerts us that states cut their mental health budgets by almost $1.6 billion between FY2009 and FY2011 (here, he cites stats from the National Alliance on Mental Illness). “Many states are likely to make further cuts this year,” Gionfriddo cautions in his post. He suggests three ways that foundations can respond to this situation. He comments, though, that “the philanthropic community can’t replace these dollars” cut by states.

How to Educate the Public about the ACA: Recommendations from CaliforniaSpeaks


June 6th, 2011

Read about a Blue Shield of California Foundation project to educate Californians about the federal health reform law.

According to the April 2011 Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll, public opinion on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to be split. Four in ten feel favorably about the law, and an equal share say the opposite. (The rest had no opinion on the health reform law.) And surprisingly, this recent poll found a slight uptick in the share of people who have no opinion on it.

To explore the key factors that influence support and opposition to the law, including ways to better educate the public about the actual provisions of the law, AmericaSpeaks (referred to as CaliforniaSpeaks in this project) conducted seven community dialogue sessions with more than 220 participants, total, at all sessions across California during January and February 2011. The sessions assessed how the general public responds to the core elements of the ACA when they are presented in a variety of formats. These forums, supported by a grant from the Blue Shield of California Foundation (BSCF), were held in Fresno, Pasadena, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Leandro, and San Luis Obispo. This project built on the BSCF’s prior support of CaliforniaSpeaks in 2007 when the state was debating a major health reform proposal. Both projects were designed to educate and inform the public about efforts to expand health coverage for Californians.

Each session used AmericaSpeaks’ 21st Century Town Meeting format, which combines the intimacy of small-scale, face-to-face deliberations with the use of modern technology, including wireless keypads for voting and networked laptops for real-time data collection about participants’ opinions and perspectives.

The four-hour sessions were intentionally small, with thirty to forty participants seated at tables of eight to ten people, including a facilitator. They listened to substantive presentations by our team on three central topics (financing and containing costs, the individual mandate and insurance reform, and finding health insurance); reviewed factsheets; and viewed a video. After each segment, participants engaged in a facilitated dialogue, had opportunities to ask questions of an expert, and then shared their opinions through individual keypad polling.

The dialogues did not examine alternative approaches to delivering and financing health care, but rather they focused on the specific elements of the ACA, what members of the public could learn from different educational materials, and what parts of the law people wanted to know more about.

For CaliforniaSpeaks, we aimed to recruit participants who: (1) had little or no knowledge of the ACA; (2) had little or no opinion in support of or opposed to the ACA; and (3) represented a cross-section of Californians.

Although 81 percent of participants said at the beginning of the sessions that they had little or no knowledge of the ACA, by the conclusion of the information sessions:

* 77 percent of all participants around the state said that they believed that the ACA addressed the long-term challenges of the health care system somewhat or very well; and

* 79 percent said that they strongly or somewhat supported the law, with 74 percent of all participants indicating support for the individual mandate.

Neutral, high-impact education and public awareness programs for the ACA will be critical in the coming months and years as states prepare for implementation of the law. The process of designing, testing, and refining dialogue sessions in seven different locations with a broad spectrum of the general public led us to a clear set of recommendations for core elements of any future ACA educational efforts. They include: 

Facts promote better understanding. Solid, unbiased information is a powerful tool for helping consumers to understand the ACA. While many members of the public are skeptical about the law and how it will be financed, if data are presented in a clear and simplified format, there is a strong shift to both increased knowledge and support.

Understanding the ACA requires context. The ACA in and of itself is controversial. However, public understanding of the law increases when its changes are presented in the context of the overall challenges facing the U.S. health care system.

Linking issues helps people understand why and how the law was written. To understand some of the more controversial aspects of the ACA, such as the individual mandate, there needs to be a clear linkage between the components of this health reform law. The individual mandate is better understood in light of insurance market reforms and the need for broad participation in the insurance risk pool. The financing for the ACA is better understood in the context of the challenge of slowing the growth of health care costs and the need to find savings in health care programs. When the rationale is provided, the public is much more favorably disposed to the requirement that individuals purchase insurance and to the use of new revenue and savings to fund coverage expansions by means of the ACA.

Focusing on provisions of the law that affect consumers gets people more deeply engaged. Each element of the ACA generates more questions. The more attention that was paid to the variety of circumstances and scenarios that consumers find themselves in, the more deeply participants engaged in the material and asked increasingly sophisticated questions. In addition, we found that participants across the spectrum were interested in how the ACA promoted prevention and wellness.

Breaking down the ACA into understandable parts and using a variety of communication methods promotes learning. To absorb and understand a complex law like the ACA, people need to do more than listen to presentations. Having a mix of presentations, videos, and factsheets, and, most importantly, dialogue and discussion enables people to engage more actively in the subject and learn more.

Providing reliable information from multiple touch points is needed to educate the public about how the law will affect them: Because the ACA will have a major impact on all consumers, there must be a variety of ways to inform individuals and families about the current and future changes stemming from the law. Among the entities that consumers trust most to provide this information are nonprofit health philanthropies, community organizations, and doctors. (An important paradox that must be addressed is the fact that many of the trusted sources identified by participants are unable and/or ill-equipped to commit the meaningful time required to sufficiently learn about, and to educate others about, the ACA.)

Health care reform will affect all of us. With the target date for full implementation of the ACA right around the corner, health care organizations, providers, policy makers, and opinion leaders must use every opportunity to educate their colleagues, constituents, and the public. The next two years will be particularly important in the lead-up to the implementation of the health insurance exchanges in 2014, as well as the individual and employer mandates. More fact-based, objective educational forums about the ACA will engage consumers in a process of discovering how the law will affect them and how they need to prepare for its implementation.

For a more complete description and analysis about the forums, please see Educating Californians about the ACA: A Report on CaliforniaSpeaks’ Seven Community Dialogue Sessions.

How Do We Address Noncommunicable Disease? Lessons Learned from the Global Health Partnerships Program


June 2nd, 2011
 
by Mark Spires and Atiya Weiss

These authors from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Pfizer Inc, respectively, discuss what has been learned thus far from this program funded by Pfizer and the Pfizer Foundation.

Noncommunicable diseases have become an important global health concern—they account for 60 percent of all deaths worldwide, or about 35 million deaths, a year with current trends predicting a 17 percent increase in global noncommunicable deaths over the next ten years. A major factor driving this rise in noncommunicable diseases is the increasing number of deaths from cancer; these are projected to increase from 7.4 million in 2004 to 11.8 million in 2030.

A staggering 80 percent of all noncommunicable cases are now found in low- and middle-income countries. Currently, more than 70 percent of all cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, those least prepared to respond.

The global fight against noncommunicable diseases and the risk factors for them, such as tobacco use, have largely been neglected when it comes to the distribution of overseas development aid to low and middle income countries. In fact, only 2 percent of the more than $44 billion in foreign aid have been devoted to fighting noncommunicable diseases in the developing world.

Pfizer Inc and the Pfizer Foundation recognize this funding gap and through their Global Health Partnerships program have invested $47 million (for programmatic grants, targeted technical assistance, and networking opportunities through annual conferences) over four years (2008–2011) in thirty-one promising cancer and tobacco-control partner organizations operating in forty-six countries.

The United Nations (UN) high-level meeting on noncommunicable diseases in September 2011 aims to address the current crisis related to such diseases, as well as the resulting socioeconomic and other developmental challenges facing low- and middle-income countries. Current dialogue around this UN Summit and recommendations for it have largely centered on the role of governments and their ministries of health in combating noncommunicable diseases.

Lessons learned from the Pfizer Global Health Partnership program offer insights into the role of local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in low- and middle-income countries as models of noncommunicable disease prevention and control. Experiences of the Pfizer partners highlight the importance of evidence-based practices and sound program monitoring and evaluation efforts and offer insights on how to promote sustainable funding strategies and influence change on a national level.

Global Health Partnerships: Advancing Cancer and Tobacco Control

The Pfizer program’s partners have focused on improving cancer-related outcomes and tobacco-control efforts through a variety of innovative projects. In line with preparatory guidelines for the upcoming UN Summit, that is, to make countries more accountable for providing better noncommunicable disease prevention and care, and to increase the allocation of resources for treatment and prevention of such diseases, the Pfizer program’s strategy aims to improve the reach and impact of each of its partners in both the short term and long term. To this end, the Pfizer Foundation’s investment includes providing technical assistance in the areas of project monitoring and evaluation from the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. As a result, partners have learned how to improve their ongoing prevention and control efforts and how to develop an evidence base on which to continue these efforts and advocate for national-level change.

One such example is the New Hope in Health Foundation, a Turkish NGO that teamed up with the Turkish Ministry of Health in a project called Step Forward to Fight Against Cancer. Through funding from the Global Health Partnerships program, the group enhanced Turkey’s national cancer surveillance system/registries by recruiting and training thirty-eight cancer registrars in the principles of cancer registry surveillance and geographic information systems.

Additionally, that organization has brought together more than sixty participants from fourteen advocacy groups to promote the importance of cancer control at a national level. Because of its successful program, New Hope in Health has reached a point where its efforts are locally sustained through funding from the national ministry of health. Through effective program monitoring and evaluation, key partnerships with local government officials, and strong advocacy, New Hope in Health offers a unique model of how an NGO operating in a middle-income country can influence governmental change on a national level.

Another Pfizer partner that demonstrates the benefits and positive outcomes of evidence-based practices is the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control. Through Pfizer’s support, the association has produced (1) a set of technical guidelines for creating smoke-free hospitals and (2) educational materials, including materials that try to motivate doctors to quit smoking. Through a relationship that the association has cultivated with the Chinese Ministry of Health, the guidelines have been adopted at a national level and have been implemented in sixty Chinese hospitals.

The Chinese Association on Tobacco Control measured the impact and effectiveness of their educational intervention and, as a result, it was able to demonstrate that a large number of health care providers have realized that, to reduce tobacco use and prevent diseases, they must act as role models. Both the vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and the vice minister of the ministry of health have offered their encouragement and endorsement of the project. The association’s project funded by the Global Health Partnerships program illustrates how monitoring and evaluating the impact and effectiveness of a project can demonstrate results to national governments and have an important impact on their decisions.

Although only half of the Pfizer projects have reached the end of their funding, program outcomes to date have been encouraging and indicate that technical assistance efforts have been effective in helping the program’s partners understand the importance of program monitoring and evaluation by creating a basic program evaluation plan and monitoring and evaluating their progress accordingly.

Conclusion

As nations prepare for the UN Summit on noncommunicable diseases in September 2011, partners of the Global Health Partnerships program offer unique insights into the role that local NGOs in low- and middle-income countries can play in assisting governments’ prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases. Although their individual successes may seem modest in light of the crushing burden of cancer, the partners’ efforts collectively represent critical advancements toward a world without cancer. The Johns Hopkins University evaluation team is eager to review the final outcomes of each project and highlight any emerging best practices in cancer prevention and tobacco control.

For further information regarding the Global Health Partnerships program and for updates, visit its website: http://www.pfizer.com/responsibility/global_health/global_health_partnerships.jsp.

Related resource:

“Video: Spotlighting the NCD [Noncommunicable Disease] Problem,” Julia Nagel, May 23, Smart Global Health.org blog of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

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