This is a slightly modified version of a post that appeared on Health Affairs blog on January 28.

Health Affairs readers may have noticed something a little different about the Narrative Matters essay in January’s issue. The essay, “To Fight Bad Suga’, Or Diabetes, My Neighborhood Needs More Health Educators,” by Joseph West of Sinai Urban Health Institute, is the first to include the Policy Checklist, a new feature that will accompany all of our Narrative Matters essays going forward.

The feature points readers to related readings, enacted or proposed legislation, current or planned governmental and private initiatives, and other resources that can help to round out  perspectives on a given health policy issue. In the case of the checklist accompanying West’s essay, about the need for more community health workers to serve residents in one poor Chicago community devastated by diabetes, the checklist points to Affordable Care Act grants for outreach to medically underserved populations, community-based diabetes management projects like the CDC’s Project DIRECT, and Health Affairs papers on a national diabetes prevention strategy and on the measured benefits of community health workers.

With the generous support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Narrative Matters personal essays have always connected personal stories to these sorts of relevant and highly topical policy issues in the health care system. Over the years, Narrative Matters essays have taken on topics ranging from the US mental health care system to oral health care to end-of-life care. Many have generated significant discussion and reflection in health care and health policy circles, and advanced the policy debate on several fronts.

We’d like to hear your suggestions for making the Policy Checklist as helpful to readers, and as full of impact, as possible. Please tell us what you think of January’s checklist or the format in general. Meanwhile, if you have a compelling story to share about your health or health care that highlights an important public policy issue—or a situation affecting someone you know—please let us know.

As GrantWatch Blog readers may know, those who work in the world of health philanthropy often have stories to share about their experiences in the health care and health policy environments. Examples of past Narrative Matters essays by authors with connections to health philanthropy include:

* “How I Helped Create a Flawed Mental Health System That’s Failed Millions—and My Son,” by Paul Gionfriddo, who has a blog called Our Health Policy Matters and is the former president of the Quantum Foundation, in West Palm Beach, Florida (September 2012 issue)

* “Living Life in My Own Way—and Dying That Way as Well,” by Amy Berman of the John A. Hartford Foundation, in New York City (April 2012 issue)

* “From the Talk to the Walk,” an essay on mental illness by Roger Hughes, former executive director of St. Luke’s Health Initiatives, in Phoenix, Arizona (May/June 2003 issue)

“On Being a Grantmaker,” by Michael Learned, president and co-founder of Commonweal, president of the Jenifer Altman Foundation, in San Francisco, and former president of the Mitchell Kapor Foundation, in Oakland, California (May/June 2003 issue).

If you have questions or suggestions, please contact senior editor Jessica Bylander ( And for those who want to get started writing a Narrative Matters essay, these tips should help.