The Hitachi Foundation Sheds Light on the New Role Frontline Workers Play in Health Care

April 24th, 2014
by Tom Strong

Care guides. Patient navigators. Community health workers. Everywhere, primary care providers are experimenting with new roles for care team members. It’s not hard to understand why. Developing a truly patient-centered, team-based approach means medical providers must experiment with how services are provided, and who delivers them.

At the same time, there are many established players within the health care system who are not being utilized or trained to their full potential. For example, medical assistants perform a wide variety of functions—sometimes rudimentary, other times advanced. There are more than 570,000 medical assistants working today, with median earnings of about $29,000 per year, and medical assisting as a profession is projected to grow at a rate of 29 percent through 2022. Training and preparation for this position is uneven—often inadequate—and many medical assistants carry training-related debt.

Five years ago, the Hitachi Foundation set out to find employers who were investing in their own frontline workers through training, career ladders, and business model innovations. We wanted to understand how US businesses could improve the quality of lower-wage jobs, not through unsustainable corporate philanthropy or good intentions, but through training, organizational efficiency, and improving internal operations.

Our Good Companies @ Work program identified nearly 100 employers (including more than sixty in health care) that we call “pioneer employers.” These are companies that benefit their patients, customers, and/or shareholders by strategically investing in their own lower-wage workers. Pioneer employers go beyond typical ideas about “great places to work” and demonstrate how firms can actually align the interests of employees and management to create better results for communities while also improving business results. We discovered a number of health care practices that expanded the roles of medical assistants within care teams, and by doing so, these practices saw improvements in both patient health outcomes and operational efficiency. Read the rest of this entry »

Colorado Funders Take Wait-and-See Approach to Recreational Marijuana

April 21st, 2014
by Christie McElhinney

On April 10, the 100th day since legal sales of recreational marijuana began in Colorado, Colorado’s Attorney General John Suthers told funders gathered at the mid-year meeting of Philanthropy Southwest, held in Denver, that foundations need to pay attention to the “fallout” over the legalization of marijuana as this will be a “huge issue in America over the next several years.”

Suthers, who described himself as an inherently optimistic guy, said he’s pretty pessimistic about the outlook in Colorado because of the widespread availability of marijuana. The success or failure of this experiment should be judged by three measures, he said—the rate of youth drug use, the impact of marijuana use on school performance, and the impact on criminal organizations.

Use of marijuana by youth is already increasing markedly, said the attorney general. While youth use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana have decreased in the United States over the past ten years, he noted that recent studies have found one in eight Colorado youth smoked marijuana twenty or more times in a month, putting marijuana use by Colorado youth markedly above the national average.

Most people think smoking pot is pretty harmless, said Suthers. Not so for youth, he said, noting that heavy marijuana use before age eighteen can lead to a permanent loss of IQ, along with an increased opportunity for mental health problems. As well, Suthers said that 20–25 percent of those who regularly use marijuana before age eighteen will become drug addicts, compared with 4–5 percent of users over age twenty-one.

While Colorado funders have been meeting to discuss ways to help diminish harmful effects of marijuana, they are following the state’s lead on health- and safety-related efforts said panelist Bill Fowler, senior vice president, Grants Program, for the Daniels Fund. Most important, right now, said Fowler, is education. He said the Daniels Fund is interested in developing a messaging campaign to help adults understand how to talk with young people about marijuana, how to store edible pot products safely out of reach of children, and what is and isn’t legal. Read the rest of this entry »

Nominee for HHS Secretary Has Had High-Level Jobs at Two Foundations

April 15th, 2014
by Lee-Lee Prina

On Friday, following President Obama’s announcement of health and human services (HHS) secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s resignation, he nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell as her replacement.

Now director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for the Obama administration, Burwell is no stranger to philanthropy as the New York Times and the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy Today blog reported this past week.

President Obama mentioned Burwell’s work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she was chief operating officer and later president for global development. She then was head of the Walmart Foundation, he added.

Read more about Burwell and her background in my April 1, 2013, GrantWatch Blog “People Post” at the time she was nominated for the OMB post—about a year ago!


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