People Post: Foundation Board and Staff News; Job Openings

September 18th, 2014

Leah McCall Devlin has been elected to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF’s) board of trustees. Now a professor in the department of health policy and management at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, she also is a consultant to RTI International, a research institute. Devlin was North Carolina’s state health director, a position in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, from 2001 to 2009.

Susannah Fox is the RWJF’s new entrepreneur in residence, a spokesperson for the RWJF told me. This is a six-month position, although it may last longer. Fox formerly was an associate director at the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. There, “she combined traditional survey research with fieldwork in online patient communities.” Fox, “a health and technology storyteller and trend spotter,” will be “a valuable asset [to the funder’s] efforts to build a Culture of Health,” the spokesperson noted.

Bradley Gilbert, CEO of Inland Empire Health Plan, was elected to the board of directors of the California HealthCare Foundation, said a July press release. Inland Empire is a not-for-profit public health plan in California. The plan is based in Rancho Cucamonga. He started his career there as chief medical officer back in 1996. Gilbert holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley.

Martha (“Marty”) Jimenez has been named executive vice president/counsel to the California Endowment. She will start on October 27. Her responsibilities will include being chief adviser to the endowment’s president and CEO, Bob Ross, “on governance matters, organizational and operational effectiveness and strategy”  and serving as legal counsel, according to an August 20 press release. Most recently, Jimenez has been senior counsel for Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina. Read the rest of this entry »

Cigna Foundation and Nonprofit Aim to Revitalize Distressed Neighborhood: Community Development at Work

September 15th, 2014

The story begins with the failure of the economic engine—the relocation of a factory, perhaps, or the closure of a mine. Soon, joblessness, violence, and the deterioration of housing conditions follow. The impact on individual health levels can be devastating as rates of mental illness and substance abuse increase and more people do not manage their chronic conditions. Ultimately, life expectancy there drops well below that of surrounding areas.

Distressed neighborhoods can be found in cities across the United States. Always, the metrics tell a similar story.

But these communities also possess formidable strengths—informal problem-solving networks comprised of local residents, or vibrant churches and mosques with deep roots and organizing power. Organizations hoping to make positive change must inhabit the middle space, gathering a community’s strengths together around its biggest challenges, bringing in the right outside skills and resources, and creating opportunities for collective problem solving.

The Cigna Foundation is partnering with Community Solutions, a New York-based nonprofit pursuing this approach in the Northeast neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut. Among the poorest neighborhoods in the country, Northeast stands in sharp contrast to the wealthy suburbs found in other parts of the Constitution state. Households in Northeast are disproportionately low income, African American, female, and single parent. Well-paying job opportunities are scarce. The emergency department (ED) at nearby St. Francis Hospital is the primary source of health care for this largely Medicaid-insured population.

The centerpiece of this neighborhood used to be the Swift Factory, which was in its day a dominant source of gold leafing for state capitol buildings and historic landmarks across the country. In 2004 the factory shut its doors for the final time, and a neighborhood already in distress fell on even harder times.

Today, Community Solutions is placing a bold bet on a plan to revitalize the factory building as a hub for employment, entrepreneurship, and health care services. The nonprofit is also engaged in innovative efforts to coordinate health care and social services more effectively throughout the neighborhood of Northeast and to help residents restore key community assets, such as a park designed by the well-known landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The end goal is a dramatic turnaround of the entire neighborhood, led by, and for the benefit of, its current residents. Read the rest of this entry »

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Creating Partnerships to Build a Culture of Health

September 11th, 2014

For most of my career, I’ve worked on health care issues that were deeply entwined in policy discussions of the day. At the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the Physician Payment Review Commission, I had a hand in the resource-based relative value fee schedule and the much-debated sustainable growth rate system. At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), I led the team working on coverage issues, including activities such as Cover the Uninsured Week, intended to raise awareness about this issue, and Covering Kids and Families, targeted at enrolling kids in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). I also worked on other emerging trends facing the policy community, such as quality of care and long-term care.

The RWJF continues to be committed to these and other discrete issues that inevitably drive policy solutions for better health and health care. However, we have refocused our work on creating a much more visionary approach to achieving those goals: building what we call a Culture of Health. We want to shift values so that health becomes part of everything we do­–shift our values to shift our actions.

So, why am I so excited about the RWJF’s work on the Culture of Health? And why should the policy community also be excited? Today we spend more on health care than any country does—17 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Yet, according to the Institute of Medicine’s report U.S. Health in International Perspective, the United States ranks at the bottom of a list of wealthy countries in health outcomes. These trends are impossible to ignore, and as a researcher, I look to evidence to answer the question of why we are so far behind.

Why are we paying more and getting less? Starting in the early 1990s with Michael McGinnis and William Foege’s article on the causes of death, a number of studies have shown that the availability or quality of health care has a small influence on preventable mortality. Read the rest of this entry »

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