Health Centers Have a Secret Weapon for Addressing Minority Health: Consumer Boards

National Minority Health Month 2017  is behind us but we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out one particularly unique way Community Health Centers address minority health — through consumer-driven boards.

By law, health center boards must be comprised of at least 51% consumers.  These are people who live in the community served by the health center, are patients, and represent the individuals who are served by the health center in terms of demographics such as race, ethnicity, and gender.

Board members keep health centers accountable to the patients they serve, and are uniquely positioned to address community needs. More than half – 62% — of Community Health Center patients identify as a racial/ethnic minority, so it makes sense that health centers and their boards do an excellent job addressing issues impacting these populations.

Why does this model work? Because it ensures that resources are efficiently directed to population health needs.  There is no one-size fits all approach in community health, and that’s why every health center looks different, depending on where one visits.  A case in point is the trailblazing efforts of the Northeast Valley Health Corporation’s new program.  The health center deploys Ambulatory Care Pharmacists to work directly with patients with acute hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol (minorities are more likely than whites to have most of the major chronic diseases).   The program is so successful the local news featured an article about it.

Do you have a story about your health center’s consumer board? Tell us and we’ll write about it on this blog.


Wanted: Young Professional Health Center Leaders

Pages from 2016CHI-Program-online-version-07-19-16If you’ve been to any NACHC events in recent years, you’ve probably heard leadership talk about the importance of training the next generation of health center leaders. I’m still fairly new here, but I know I have. This year, with the introduction of the new Young Professional Leadership Exchange (YP) track at the 2016 Community Health Institute (CHI) and Expo, NACHC is taking its biggest step yet toward ensuring the next generation is prepared to carry the torch of the Community Health Center Movement.

After attending the Young Professionals Leadership Exchange reception at the 2015 Policy & Issues Forum, a group of NACHC employees started thinking about what more the association can do to help young professionals. “We realized we didn’t have a lot of resources here at NACHC specifically geared toward young professionals, and we didn’t know what was going on within the Health Center Movement either,” said Russell Brown, a NACHC staffer and one of the organizers of the YP track initiative.

After a planning session at last year’s CHI, and a flurry of phone calls, the track is finally on the conference program.  The YP festivities at this year’s CHI kick off Sunday, August 28, with three social events for young leaders – a speed networking session, poster presentations, and an evening reception at South Water Kitchen not far from the NACHC conference site in Chicago.  All three Sunday events offer great opportunities to mingle with and hopefully learn from peers and current health center leadership.

Monday, August 29, and Tuesday, August 30, are filled with sessions chosen for the track specifically to advance the leadership potential of young professionals – sessions like Career Development and Succession Planning in the Community and Migrant Health Center World and Best Practices and Lessons Learned for Collecting and Using Data on the Social Determinants of Health, which is designed to educate attendees about the Pro­to­col for Respond­ing to and Assess­ing Patients’ Assets, Risks, and Expe­ri­ences (PRAPARE) and how they can comprehensively meet the needs of patients and communities.

These sessions were chosen for a reason. “Millennials like specific outcomes when they go to a session. They want to learn tangible things. They want to bring back something to their health center that they can apply,” Brown said.

With 24 million patients (and counting!) visiting America’s Health Centers, it will soon be up to the next generation to continue the mission of high-quality, cost-effective, culturally competent care for all.  The YP track is so far receiving good feedback, and the group hopes to keep the momentum going.

“One of the top priorities is the ability to create a network of peers in the Health Center Movement that anchors them and solidifies their foundation in the movement,” said Brown.

Are you planning to attend sessions in the YP track? We’re looking forward to seeing you! Let us know which sessions you plan to attend in the comments below.

Postcard from Rhode Island — A Community Approach to Target Victims of Domestic Violence

Every so often we hear about health centers collaborating with other organizations to solve a problem.  In a previous blog post we wrote about efforts by health centers and the city of Boston to respond to victims of trauma.   Now, in Rhode Island, we learned about a similar collaboration, only this time it is to reach out to victims of domestic violence.  Thanks to a grant from FUTURES Without Violence, an organization dedicated to empowering organizations and people to end violence against women and children around the globe,  Thundermist Health Center and Sojourner House, a comprehensive domestic violence agency, have joined forces.  These organizations may sound like unlikely allies, until one considers that domestic violence is not just a private family matter, but also a public health issue.   According to the Centers for Disease Control,  on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.

Thundermist will focus on offering patients health education and harm reduction strategies.  Sojourner House will help with safety planning and support services. FUTURES Without Violence will add in technical assistance, training, and resources.   For Thundermist, this is a health issue that demands an immediate community approach.

“In 2013, there were 407 arrests due to domestic violence in Woonsocket.  This is the highest rate in the state when accounting for population size, and we believe a vast underestimate of the true rate,”said Chuck Jones, Thundermist’s president and CEO.  “We see a great opportunity to integrate intimate partner violence (IPV) screening into our practice.  We recognize that Woonsocket is deeply impacted by IPV, and that strengthening our existing partnership with Sojourner House will have a positive impact on staff, our patients, and our community.”

Help for domestic violence victims is just one of the many social services Community Health Centers can offer patients. The services at Thundermist alone range from primary medical care and dental care to adherence counseling for HIV-positive patients and even a Trans* Health Access Team which works to improve access to culturally and clinically competent healthcare for the trans community.

Fighting Breast Cancer in the Crescent City

Just like Open Door Medical Family Medical Centers, which we featured in a recent blog post, EXCELth Primary Care Network, in New Orleans, is working to increase the city’s breast cancer screening rates and address the unequal burden of breast cancer within the community thanks to a $50,000 grant from the National Football League (NFL) and the American Cancer Society (ACS).

“These crucial grants help provide additional health resources to increase access to care for women in need,” said Sheila Webb, Ph.D., APRN, CNS, EXCELth’s associate clinical director. “Our hope is that by raising breast cancer awareness it will result in women taking action in positive health behaviors with annual exams and screenings and adopting lifestyle behaviors overall.”

EXCELth was one of 32 grant recipients to receive funds to implement strategies to address the unequal burden of breast cancer in communities across the country through the NFL’s A Crucial Catch initiative and the American Cancer Society’s Community Health Advocates implementing National Grants for Empowerment (CHANGE) grant program.

The primary care network’s efforts kicked off with “A Crucial Catch Day – Your Day to Fight Breast Cancer” on Oct. 13. The free event featured free breast health education, clinical breast exams, and referrals for mammograms, and also family-friendly activities for participants of all ages.

Visit EXCELth’s website for more information on upcoming breast cancer events.

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month winds down, we know health centers are fighting breast cancer year-round. Continue to share your initiatives with us and we could write about them on the blog.

Transforming Clinical Practice

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell has announced that the federal agency is awarding $685 million to 39 healthcare collaborative networks to help them improve quality of care, increase patient access to information, and reduce costs at their institutions under the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative.

“Supporting doctors and other health care professionals change the way they work is critical to improving quality and spending our healthcare dollars more wisely,” said Secretary Burwell in a press release. “These awards will give patients more of the information they need to make informed decisions about their care and give clinicians access to information and support to improve care coordination and quality outcomes.”

The investment aims to provide the tools and support needed to improve quality of care for patients as an overall shift to reward value rather than volume in healthcare. The Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative is one of the largest federal investments designed to support doctors and other clinicians in all 50 states through collaborative and peer-based learning networks;  meaning, learning from one another’s successes or failures.

The Community Health Center Association of Connecticut (CHCACT) is one of the organizations selected to receive the funds –  $17.25 million to provide technical assistance support to help clinicians at  health centers  in Connecticut with the tools, information, and network support they need to improve quality, increase patient access, and spend health care money more wisely.

Evelyn Barnum, CHCACT’s CEO, said in a press release that the program will “focus on improving health outcomes for three conditions common to health center patients: asthma, diabetes and hypertension. Overall, CHCACT expects this investment to improve the health of FQHC patients while saving over $38 million in the health care system.”

Congratulations to CHCACT and all of the other awardees!

To learn more about the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative and the other awardees, visit the initiative website.

Did your health center or PCA receive funds under this initiative? We want to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below and we will feature you in a future blog post.