HARTFORD, Conn. (Dec. 30, 2019) – With funding from the Connecticut Health Foundation, two health care organizations plan to pilot new approaches to providing care as a way to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities among their patients.
The projects by Griffin Hospital in Derby and Partners for a Healthier Connecticut, based in East Hartford, were both designed based on examinations of the health outcomes for patients by race and ethnicity – a critical step in identifying and addressing disparities. The grants grew out of a request by the Connecticut Health Foundation for health systems to use quality metrics to track disparities, implement interventions, and measure improvements.
At Griffin Health – which includes Griffin Hospital and Griffin Faculty Physicians, its affiliated primary care provider – an analysis of patient data indicated that patients of color were more likely to have uncontrolled diabetes than white patients. In addition, patients of color covered by Medicare were less likely to have completed an annual wellness visit compared to white patients.
Griffin Health plans to expand its primary care team to include a clinical pharmacist and community health worker, and will expand the team’s focus on factors outside medicine that affect health, such as whether patients have enough food, stable housing, and reliable transportation. The changes are aimed at improving patients’ diabetes control and use of annual wellness visits.
“We will regularly review our electronic health record system to identify wellness visit disparities, and make outreach calls to help patients overcome social determinants and advance the equality of wellness visits,” said Tracy Raab, project manager for the Griffin Health grant. “We believe that this innovative approach and the expanded care team with a clinical pharmacist will help patients understand the preventative health measures that can improve their well-being and help remove obstacles to their access to care.”
Partners for a Healthier Connecticut is a collaborative led by Saint Francis Health Care Partners – an accountable care organization – and ConnectiCare. Based on data showing that black and Latino patients with type 2 diabetes have higher blood glucose levels and poorer outcomes than white patients, the organization plans to implement a new care model for adults with type 2 diabetes.
As part of the model, patients will have access to a care coordinator who is a certified diabetes educator and better access to their providers, as well as an approach with a more holistic focus on their overall well-being. For example, patients who are unable to afford healthy food could be reimbursed for meal preparation kits, and patients who lack reliable transportation could be reimbursed for travel to health care visits. The organization also plans to integrate data from patients’ electronic health records with claims data from their insurer to generate a clearer picture of patients’ health.
The Connecticut Health Foundation is supporting these projects through a $100,000 one-year grant to Griffin Hospital and a $200,000 two-year grant to Partners for a Healthier Connecticut.
“There is great power in using data to better inform health care delivery, but we must ensure that these capabilities do not inadvertently perpetuate existing disparities,” said Tiffany Donelson, the Connecticut Health Foundation’s vice president of program. “Data in the aggregate often masks inequalities, so it is important for health care organizations to examine their patient populations’ care and outcomes by race and ethnicity. We are eager to support this work to address racial and ethnic health disparities and hope it will produce lessons that other health care organizations can apply.”
These projects are among 20 grants totaling $1.4 million awarded by the Connecticut Health Foundation this quarter. The others are:
Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers, North Haven: $100,000 (18 months)
This funding will support the association as it undergoes an in-depth strategic planning process and leadership search as it seeks to best advocate for the visibility and sustainability of school-based health centers and identifies ways to integrate these centers into developing models for pediatric health care.
Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford: $50,000
For children with autism spectrum disorder, early identification and intervention are critical to their long-term outcomes, but studies show that children of color are diagnosed later than white children. In hopes of closing this gap and ensuring that all children who are at-risk are identified as early as possible, researchers at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center are working to better link children’s medical and early education providers with early intervention specialists. This funding will support the completion of this pilot program, as well as work to develop a sustainability plan to ensure this model can be successfully expanded statewide.
Connecticut Office of Health Strategy, Hartford: $50,000
The Connecticut Office of Health Strategy, along with the Office of the State Comptroller, will continue work to develop and implement a health care affordability standard, a tool designed to help policymakers assess whether potential policies will make it easier or harder for various populations to afford health care. This funding will support work to help ensure that policymakers recognize the affordability standard’s potential uses and to ensure the transparency of information about the tool and the data analyses it generates, including through the development of a website about health care affordability.
Health Equity Solutions, Hartford: $300,000
This funding will support Health Equity Solutions’ work to advance health equity for people of color through policy advocacy. The organization plans to focus on ensuring the implementation of a voluntary certification program for community health workers, as well as advocate for sustainable funding for services provided by community health workers. Health Equity Solutions also plans to promote the importance of having standardized information on race, ethnicity, and language preference in health data, launch a task force on the connection between health equity and health reform, and elevate the voices of those with lived experience in advocacy related to Medicaid.
Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Hartford: $100,000
This funding will support a pilot program designed to better support low-income patients of color, who are more likely than other patients to be readmitted to the hospital after being discharged. The pilot will focus on patients undergoing colorectal surgery, identifying those considered at high risk, and creating a section in the electronic health record system to identify and track them until they are fully recovered. The pilot will include documenting nonmedical factors that can lead to adverse outcomes – such as food insecurity, unstable housing, and not having a primary care provider – as well as steps taken to address those challenges. In addition, a community health worker will be added to the colorectal patient care team to help patients prepare for surgery and support the patients through the recovery process. The pilot will also include using a system of protocols to prepare patients for surgery and recovery that are designed to improve post-surgical outcomes.
The Connecticut Health Foundation provides grants to nonprofit media organizations because news reporting on health care provides insights, informs debates, and ensures that critical topics reach broad audiences. The funding is awarded with an understanding that the journalism will be independent, and the grant will play no role in editorial decisions about health coverage.
Connecticut Health I-Team, New Haven: $100,000 (2 years)
The Connecticut Health I-Team provides in-depth coverage of health issues in the state. This funding will support coverage focused on the striking differences in health and health care access for people of color.
Connecticut News Project, Hartford: $75,000
The Connecticut News Project is the parent organization of The Connecticut Mirror, which covers state politics and policy. This funding will support The Mirror’s health reporting, including explanatory and policy-oriented coverage.
Connecticut Public Broadcasting, Hartford: $100,000 (2 years)
Connecticut Public Broadcasting is the parent organization of Connecticut Public Radio, also known as WNPR. This funding will support reporting on health disparities and health policy at the local, state, and national levels, with a focus on the impact on state residents, patients, families, businesses, providers, and others.
President’s Discretionary Grants are awarded to organizations and institutions that respond to the foundation’s overall mission or priority areas.
Connecticut Health Policy Project, Hamden: $20,000
The Connecticut Health Policy Project will use this funding to update its Advocacy Toolbox, which provides extensive information about policymaking and advocacy and can help more people become engaged in advocacy work. In addition, the funds will support work to identify gaps in content, test its usability and relevance to ensure its usage is maximized, and publicize the updated resource.
Family Centers, Greenwich: $25,000
This funding will support Family Centers’ work to better serve children and families arriving in Stamford from other countries. The New Arrivals Initiative will include embedding intake services within the Stamford Public Schools’ central offices, to provide screening and assessment for a wide range of issues including trauma, basic needs, housing, mental health, primary care, oral health, literacy and parenting. The organization is working with a number of community service providers to meet children and families’ needs, and to provide early intervention and preventive support.
Greater Hartford Legal Aid, Hartford: $25,000
This planning grant will support Greater Hartford Legal Aid in creating a health equity fellowship in partnership with the foundation to prepare emerging leaders to understand health equity and advocate for improved health outcomes.
Hartford Communities That Care, Hartford: $25,000
This funding will support Hartford Communities That Care’s Hartford Care Response Team/Hospital Based Violence Intervention Program, which provides crisis response to victims of violence to address emotional, psychological, and physical needs, as well as helping survivors stabilize their lives and navigate medical, mental health, and criminal justice systems.
Human Resources Agency of New Britain, New Britain: $25,000
This grant will support planning for a collaboration between three agencies – Human Resources Agency; Community Health Center, Inc.; and Community Mental Health Affiliates – to better serve people living with HIV/AIDS in New Britain. The work is aimed at coordinating health care, behavioral health, and social services to improve health outcomes for low-income patients and people of color in New Britain.
Medicaid Strategy Group, Hartford: $25,000
This funding will support the Medicaid Strategy Group’s work to protect, strengthen, and expand Medicaid in Connecticut, focusing on the program’s importance in improving health and reducing health disparities.
New London Homeless Hospitality Center, New London: $25,000
This funding supports work to create a housing-focused partnership between the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, L+M Hospital, and Community Health Center, Inc., in New London and Groton. It will include work to develop ways to identify patients experiencing homelessness, create effective referral protocols, and create a demonstration project that could provide insights for similar partnerships.
Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven: $25,000
This funding will support work to create a Center for Health Equity and Eliminating Racism that would train students in public health in anti-racist applied research.
University of New Haven School of Health Sciences, West Haven: $22,000
This funding will support work by the WeEmbody Lab at the University of New Haven to establish a health equity fellowship program to give students the opportunity to engage in translating research into policy.
URU The Right To Be, West Haven: $25,000
URU The Right To Be runs a national education and engagement initiative called Changing the Faces of STEM, aimed at identifying and addressing racial disparities in health care access and the low percentages of underrepresented minorities in medicine and other science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. This funding will support work to interact with participants and collect data on how the interactions change awareness of medicine and allied health careers and educational paths, with the goal of identifying which tools are most effective and why, as well as what changes will improve effectiveness.
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