Category: [working group] health

Funders focus on health care reform and the community

By Rebekah Seder, Program Coordinator

“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.

Exploring the intersections of health and the arts – Part 2

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.

Exploring the intersections of health and the arts – Part 1

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.

New: Northern Virginia Health and Wellness Directory

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

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.

For healthcare reform, the hardest part is ahead

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.”

Program Officer. Jazz Vocalist. Meet Jackie Brown…

Next up in our series of grantmaker profiles: Jackie Brown, program officer for communications and outreach at the Consumer Health Foundation.

How did you get started in philanthropy?
“I’ve always considered myself as the activist who backed into philanthropy. In a previous life I was the Assistant Editor for Health & Fitness at Essence magazine… [T]he more I learned, the more I realized that I didn’t want to just write about Black women’s health issues, I wanted to do something about them…” [click for full interview]

Grantmakers invest in child health program in Prince George’s County, Md. [News, 4.23.10]

GOOD ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS | Air quality improving despite population, vehicle growth (Examiner, 4/22) – COG official: “We don’t have that many code-red days anymore.”

HEALTH | With a $400,000 grant for “efforts such as educational campaigns, community gardens and healthier school menus… Kaiser Permanente and United Way of the National Capital Area will help implement a plan being outlined by residents, officials and nonprofits…” (Gazette, 4/22)
…The Port Towns Community Health Partnership is a collaboration of the Port Towns Community, Kaiser Permanente, and Consumer Health Foundation.
Maritha Gay (Kaiser Permanente) “said she hopes the Port Towns wellness initiative, a five-to-seven year program, will be a model for other areas in Prince George’s County, where approximately 50 percent of children are obese.” “[T]he program…will also include educational components and making streets safer for children to walk and ride bikes. ‘It’s not just one lever you pull’ Gay said. ‘There are several that have to pulled and be aligned.'”

TAXES | One-Fourth of Nonprofits Are to Lose Tax Breaks (NYTimes, 4/23)

– “Rash judgment
about 14 year-old and juvenile justice agency led to escalated tensions rather than responsible dialogue” (DC Lawyers for Youth, 4/22)
> Boy, 14, not involved in D.C. drive-by, police now say (WaPo, 4/23)

Carnegie grants $6.35 million to transform K-12 education
(DailyTell, 4/22)
Bill Gates is on a college tour (Gates Foundation Facebook page) – Duuude… I’ve got tickets to Gates tonight. [Joke! Much love and respect to the emerging leaders of America.]

LOCAL FOOD | In Greater Washington, demand for local produce outpaces production (Frederick News-Post, 4/22)

PROFILES | Meet Keys for the Homeless, a local group that takes donated goods from hotels to homeless shelters. (WaPo, 4/23)

ICELAND | has issues.

Hope you enjoy a wonderful, code-green weekend.

Living to be 100

It’s far more common than it used to be because America is quickly aging:

“The number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double over the next 40 years, reaching 80 million in 2040. The number of adults ages 85 and older…will nearly quadruple between 2000 and 2040.”

It’s no surprise that more thinking and research is going into aging well, and maximizing our later years. Some of the most interesting research comes from the late Dr. Gene Cohen, confirming that older adults who participate in arts and creative activities have fewer illnesses and injuries, as well as more independence. However, a critical gap exists between arts provision and aging services.

Join Washington Grantmakers on Feb. 3* for a boundary-crossing discussion about Dr. Cohen’s groundbreaking work, Debunking the Myths: Creativity, Health, and Positive Changes of Aging, featuring:

Dr. Lauren LeRoy (moderator), President and CEO, Grantmakers In Health
Dr. Gay Hanna, Executive Director, National Center for Creative Aging
Susan Perlstein, Artist/Founder, Elders Share the Arts

* Funders and government agency leaders only, please. This meeting is co-sponsored by WG’s Working Group on Aging, Arts and Humanities Working Group, and Health Working Group.

New on WGTV: Alice Rivlin

By Carolynn Mambu, Vice President, Washington Grantmakers

“Most people thought we were working on healthcare, but I had to say ‘no’. What matters most to Americans is not access to health care, it’s access to the choices people can make in their daily lives,” explained Alice Rivlin, co-chair of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America and senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution.

Click to view.
(WGTV is for WG members.)

Last month, Dr. Rivlin joined WG members for a compelling discussion of the RWJF Commission’s Beyond Health Care: New Directions to a Healthier America. Americans are not as healthy as they could be, and factors such as education level, income and where we live make an enormous difference.

Rivlin suggested that wellness and health are managed by individuals and small communities, but that local and federal policies play an important role. Progress requires personal responsibility, an understanding of nutrition and cooking, and the availability of fresh food. Community design is also important–anything that facilitates walking and getting outside, and re-introducing physical activity into the school curriculum, is a step in the right direction.

What can grantmakers do?  Rivlin suggests working with grantees to build health consciousness into everything you’re working on – youth programs, education, housing – ask about the impact on the health of the people you’re working with. Always ask: how does this program promote a healthy lifestyle?

This installment of WG Thought Leaders was organized by Washington Grantmakers’ Health Working Group.

Rivlin 9.24.09 (TLC, PM, AR)
Patricia Mathews (Northern Virginia Health Foundation,
HWG Chair); Tamara Lucas Copeland (Washington
Grantmakers); and Dr. Alice Rivlin