Community Health Workers Attend Statewide Convening Cosponsored by a Foundation

September 30th, 2014

The health system in the United States is undergoing transformative changes at the local, state, and national levels. A significant part of this change is the estimated 20 million-plus people that have gained health coverage, many for the first time, through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In Kentucky, more than 520,000 people are newly insured in either Medicaid or a qualified (private) health plan through the health benefit exchange, kynect. (I work at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.)

Lack of health coverage is a significant barrier to getting needed and timely care. Still, as others’ research has shown, health coverage does not equal access to care. Kentucky has been enormously successful in enrolling individuals and families into public and private insurance. Now, the state, local communities, and a variety of organizations are busy formulating strategies to make sure that this new coverage translates to timely access to high-quality care.

States and communities still have work to do, including assuring that there is an adequate health care work force—that is, adequate in quantity and types of providers; assisting people with navigating a complex health system; providing education to increase health literacy; incorporating prevention and other population-level approaches into a health system that thus far has been focused on “sick care”; being responsive to cultural and linguistic needs of communities; addressing the important role that socioeconomic factors play in health and health outcomes; and controlling (or decreasing) health care costs.

One strategy that can address all of the challenges above, and has been used successfully around the world, is bringing community health workers (CHWs) into the mix—whether as paid workers or volunteers. CHWs are also known as lay health workers or promotora/os among other names. A CHW is defined by the American Public Health Association as a “frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community served.” CHWs are members of the communities they serve, as well as the clinical care or public health teams, and often work in community-based organizations. This trust-based relationship between the CHW and community members helps to incorporate social and cultural dimensions that can break down barriers to access and also improve quality and decrease costs. Read the rest of this entry »

National Obesity Rates Remain High: New Report

September 29th, 2014

Just in time for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) recently released their eleventh annual report, The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America 2014 (formerly known as the F as in Fat report). The 2014 report was also supported by a grant from the RWJF.

The 136-page report found that adult obesity rates have increased in six states (Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wyoming). They have not decreased in any state.

State-by-state, forty-three states have an adult obesity rate of 25 percent or more. Mississippi and West Virginia have the highest rates at 35.1 percent. Colorado has the lowest rate, at 21.3 percent. According to the press release, this reporting period marks the first time a state adult obesity rate has surpassed 35 percent.

In addition, obesity rates are highest among Hispanics, blacks, Southerners, and people with lower incomes and less education. Read the rest of this entry »

New in the Journal: Public Opinion Polling on Health: What Two Foundations Learned

September 23rd, 2014

The September 2014 issue of Health Affairs contains a peer-reviewed GrantWatch article about the Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP), which is sponsored by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health (formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati).

In “For Two Regional Health Foundations, Returns from the Kentucky Health Issues Poll Are Worth the Investments,” Sarah E. Walsh of Eastern Michigan University and coauthors report that the two funders received more benefits than just the information generated from the telephone poll of Kentucky adults. The foundations have also gotten “increased name recognition and credibility with key stakeholders, including state policy makers and the media.” In addition, the relationship between the two foundations grew stronger as a result of jointly funding the poll.

The Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati has conducted the poll for the foundations every year since its inception in 2008. The authors state that the institute has a “strong track record of accuracy and credibility” from its work on the Ohio Poll, yet its bid was highly competitive, they note.

Of course, the poll has a cost. However, it is less than $120,000 per year, which is “modest,” the authors say. Read the rest of this entry »

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