Virginia is poised to become the 14th state to create its own health insurance exchange via two bills working their way through both chambers of the General Assembly.
Filed on behalf of Gov. Ralph Northam, who endorsed new health care initiatives in a column last October, the legislation aims to stabilize the often-volatile health plan marketplace and funnel more money back to the state for outreach and enrollment efforts. Both bills follow the federal rollback of several key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including a dramatic reduction in funding for groups that help consumers navigate and enroll in the federal marketplace. >Read More
BALTIMORE (WJZ/CNN) — More than two dozen people have now died from the flu in Maryland this season, the state’s health department said Friday.
In total, 25 people, including three children, have died from the flu, with five of the deaths coming in the past week.
Two-hundred sixty-one people were hospitalized with the flu in the past week alone, officials said. Flu activity is listed as high and widespread across the state.
Flu activity continued to increase and remained high in the United States in the week ending February 1, according to new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is after dramatic drops in flu activity during the first two weeks of 2020.
Flu virus activity was widespread in nearly every U.S. region, with high levels of activity in 45 states and Puerto Rico. Influenza A and influenza B strains are approximately equal for the season overall, the CDC said, but in recent weeks there has been an increase in influenza A. Influenza B viruses are the most commonly reported flu viruses among children, including babies, and young adults up to age 24, while influenza A is most commonly reported among people 25 to 64 and 65 and older. >Read More
“Successful health reform is a participant sport.”
This was George Mason University’s Director of the Center for Health Policy Research Dr. Len Nichols’ message to funders at a recent briefing about how the health care reform law will impact areas beyond health insurance coverage and the delivery of health care to consumers. He pointed out that successfully implementing health reform to reduce costs and improve outcomes for everyone requires a focus on the whole community and depends on effectively engaging community stakeholders, from patients and doctors, to employers, business leaders, and public officials.
Dr. Nichols outlined the elements of the law that affect areas beyond what are traditionally considered to be in the realm of medical care , particularly through its emphasis on strengthening community health and wellness programs. The legislation includes $15 billion to create the Prevention and Public Health Fund to augment community efforts to promote health and well-being through preventing illness and better managing chronic diseases.
The law also recognizes the role that communities play in improving public health through the National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy, which outlines how diverse community stakeholders can develop prevention and wellness programs in order to be better catalysts for health.
According to Dr. Nichols, members of the philanthropic community have an opportunity to impact the success of health care reform particularly in their role as conveners. Funders and others in influential positions in their communities can engage with stakeholders, such as hospitals, consumers, and the business community, to share information and ideas; counter misinformation about health reform; and advocate for local health departments to apply for federal funding.
Funders should also remember that many of their grantees are, in fact, small businesses which will have to make decisions about how to address various aspects of the law. When it comes to improving health, preventing chronic disease, and lowering health care costs, communities will either thrive as a collective unit – or they won’t at all.
Dr. Nichols’ presentation can be found in its entirety here.
Yesterday we ran Part 1 of our interview with Margaret O’Bryon, President and CEO of the Consumer Health Foundation, on how and why CHF is integrating the arts and humanities into their work on public health. This is the second of a two-part series.
Q: Are there other health-related arts projects that Consumer Health Foundation would like to share?
Margaret O’Bryon: CHF shared with the community through our Annual Meeting the PBS documentary Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? This film has helped to change people’s perceptions about what actually makes us sick and healthy by focusing on the social determinants of health. Locally, the Takoma Park-based organization CHEER (Community Health Empowerment through Education and Research) recently held a series of community viewings of Unnatural Causes in conjunction with a community health assessment of Takoma Park and Long Branch.
Last year Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, in partnership with the STICC (Sexually Transmitted Infection Community Coalition), held a series of meetings among adult and youth health advocates working on issues of reproductive health to help them analyze and understand risky behavior within the larger context of the ways in which socioeconomic inequity impacts community health. The youth then took pictures in their communities to highlight issues of poverty and housing, violence, alcohol and drug use, school conditions, teen pregnancy, and nutrition. The photos were used to raise awareness of the multiple negative conditions that affect their health and lives in hopes of changing the future. The photos were displayed last summer at the Sumner School and at the Wilson Building where youth testified in front of the DC City Council Committee on Health. A video capturing the Sumner School exhibit can be found here.
Sasha Bruce Youthwork’s Media Corps program allows young people to channel their creativity into developing advocacy campaigns. Through this program, youth have created and produced several videos that highlight critical social issues affecting them and the lives and health of their community. Topics have included unequal access to Advanced Placement classes for students living East of the River; the availability of safe and accessible green space in Anacostia; and sexual harassment in the schools.
Q: What advice would you have for other funders who are interested in incorporating the arts into their work?
M.O: I imagine there are ties between the arts and humanities and all of our work, both in and outside of our foundations, and across issue areas. We can all make those connections. For CHF and many of our partners, looking at the world and reality through the arts opens up new ways of thinking, new ways to approach our work. For example, in A Right to Care, [playwright and actor] Sarah Jones’ stark depiction of the multiple social and economic forces that affect health contributed greatly to the national and local conversation around health equity and more directly to the work of CHF.
We were excited to learn about the Consumer Health Foundation‘s recent efforts to integrate the arts and humanities into the foundation’s work in a variety of different ways. In this interview, Margaret O’Bryon, President and CEO of the Consumer Health Foundation, tells us more about how and why the foundation is engaging in this kind of work. This is the first of a two-part interview. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.
Q: What do humanities and arts bring to heath and health care?
Margaret O’Bryon: The interdisciplinary field of arts and health brings together artists, health care professionals, community workers, and researchers. While there is more research to be done in this area, findings to date indicate that artistic engagement has significantly positive effects on health. This can take the form of the visual arts, music, dance, drama, writing, including poetry, storytelling, journaling, among others. Healing-oriented engagement in the arts, has a profound healing effect on the entire clinical team, including providers and caregivers. Patient health outcomes and attitudes are also improved.
Q: How has the Consumer Health Foundation (CHF) integrated the arts into its own work and why has it done so?
M.O: CHF has fully embraced the power of storytelling as an art that has the power to transport us into another person’s reality and to connect our work to those experiences and insights.
In January, the Foundation partnered with Arena Stage to underwrite 200 tickets for Anna Deavere Smith’s performance of Let Me Down Easy. The powerful performance provided the venue for our community to come together and experience the stories she portrayed on stage.
To celebrate the foundation’s 10th anniversary several years ago, we sponsored a one-woman performance at Woolly Mammoth Theatre by award winning playwright and actor, Sarah Jones. Ms. Jones performed her play,A Right to Care, which was commissioned by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The play laid bare the racial, social, economic, and political inequities that lie at the root of poor health for many Americans. Both pieces were constructed around individual stories of people who share their perspectives on and experiences with our healthcare system.
Part 2 of this interview will run in tomorrow’s Daily.
We know that there is a rapidly growing demand for direct care health workers due to the region’s aging population, so how do we ensure that this demand will be met by a supply of well-trained and highly competent health workers?
This was the topic of discussion last week at the Working Group on Aging’s second Quality Jobs/Quality Care session, which featured a panel of leaders from community colleges and nonprofits in Northern Virginia, DC, and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties that offer training programs leading to Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and other direct care certifications. These programs provide a pathway for workers, many of whom are female, low-income, and often foreign-born, into direct care jobs that are in ever-growing demand.
While these programs are meeting a critical need, obstacles persist. Because CNA and other training programs are generally non-credit programs at community colleges, the federal government doesn’t provide financial aid for students in these programs, so keeping these programs affordable for students is challenging. In addition, licensing regulations vary across jurisdictions, making it very difficult to live, study, and work in different counties throughout the region. Finally, ensuring that the direct care jobs that these training programs lead to are of high quality, professionally supervised, and well compensated, is a continuing issue.
VIDEO:Judy Berman, Deputy Director of DC Appleseed, talks a bit more about the region’s training programs, and what role the local philanthropic community can play in strengthening the direct care workforce:
The Quality Jobs/Quality Care series is sponsored by WRAG’s Working Group on Aging, the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative at the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and the Washington Area Women’s Foundation. The series will continue on September 21 and December 13. Details TBA at www.washingtongrantmakers.org.
When I read this AP headline — “Poll: Americans split on health care repeal” — it sounded like a close-call, could-break-either-way type of split. As it turns out, it’s more of a blowout, landslide, please-don’t-repeal-health-reform sort of split.
Among all respondents (i.e., the “Americans” mentioned in the AP headline) only 32% favor repeal. A whopping 39% want even more change to the health care system–that is, 39% think health care reform did not go far enough. 18% said they like the law just fine as it is, 9% want to scale reform back some amount, and 4% do not know.
So, to summarize:
Favor repeal: 32% [One-third]
Oppose repeal: 66% [Two-thirds.] [More than twice as many.]
And of course, many Americans who favor repeal are surprised to find that they support many of the Affordable Care Act’s individual components.
The Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers’s Health Working Group is currently asking what health reform means for our region, focusing three fall meetings on each of the region’s three “states.” For everyone working towards a successful implementation, it’s a good idea to keep in mind the reality of public opinion:
The Northern Virginia Health Foundation developed the Health and Wellness Directory (.pdf) as a resource for all who share the vision of a community with the capacity to be and stay healthy. It includes programs that are open to the public and located in and serving Northern Virginia. (If you would like to be included in any future directory, please contact Julia Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
In times of great economic uncertainty and demographic change, Northern Virginia is under tremendous pressure to offer the most efficient and accessible health and wellness programs. The directory will facilitates and support strategic partnerships and key alliances among these and other groups.
By Christian Clansky, Program Associate, Washington Grantmakers
Alan Weil, director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, approaches healthcare reform with a balance of optimism and honesty – with a dash of humor to ease the heavy-handedness that has surrounded the topic.
“I would have written this legislation a little differently,” he admitted to WG members last week with a subtle grin. “But I’m glad I didn’t, and you’re glad I didn’t. The law isn’t perfect, but it is basically right for this country.”
With decades of failed attempts and, more recently, months of deeply contentious debate finally yielding a result, the passage of the healthcare legislation might have teased a sense of finality. But the legislation, Weil noted, was just a stake in the ground. The real challenge is in the implementation.
While implementation will be spread over years to come, Weil outlined a number of ways that funders can be instrumental in ensuring success. High among them is helping city and state leaders negotiate the complexities of our region; the roll-out of many of the legislation’s major elements falls to state governments.
Considering the flow of residents between DC, Maryland, and Virginia, the region could benefit tremendously from collaboration between jurisdictions. A regional insurance exchange, regional public health initiatives, and regional delivery systems are all possible under the new law, but unlikely without non-governmental advocates pushing for them.
Funders also must play a role in monitoring states’ progress in implementation and engaging and informing the public about the process. Most importantly, however, funders must help spark a cross-sector dialogue about what isn’t working now.
“We have the most expensive healthcare system in the world. We do some things very well. But we do lots of things very badly. We have an incredibly wasteful system and we provide services people don’t need,” Weil warned.
Fixing the broken elements of our current system is essential to realizing the potential of the new legislation. Once we have a clear goal that isn’t framed in abstractions and dollar signs, Weil concluded, “we have a real opportunity.”
The National Academy for State Health Policy has just released the State Health Policy Briefing which, “identifies and describes ten aspects of federal health reform that states must get right if they are to be successful in implementation.”