“Community Connections” spotlights the many ways in which hospitals serve their communities. AHA members can learn more by visiting www.ahacommunityconnections.org.
Every year the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA), like many other state and regional hospital associations across the country, releases an annual report that describes their members’ efforts to help build healthier communities. These annual community benefit reports help tell how hospitals across the country – urban and rural, large and small – are making their communities healthier in ways that are as diverse as the needs of each community. They are one way of helping the public and policymakers learn more about hospitals’ commitment to the people they serve.
New Jersey’s hospitals contributed $2.3 billion in community benefits in 2011, according to the NJHA’s recently released report. It includes examples of “community benefit in action” – real-life stories of people whose lives were touched by hospitals’ health screenings, community outreach initiatives, healthy lifestyle programs and community donations. For more on NJHA’s report, click on: http://www.njha.com/media/82200/2012CommunityBenefitReport.pdf.
The following stories are from the report and reprinted here with NJHA’s permission as an example of how state hospitals associations are telling their hospitals’ stories.
Calendar contest builds stroke awareness
Strokes can strike at any time – seven days a week, 365 days a year. So what better way to raise awareness of the warning signs of stroke than on a calendar?
Kennedy Health System used that approach to engage and educate a wide audience in its Stroke Awareness Calendar Contest. Kennedy University Hospital in Washington Township partnered with a local school, Orchard Valley Middle School, to educate students about stroke and then challenged them to use their creative talents to depict the warning signs of stroke in their own original artwork.
Staff nurses from Kennedy’s intensive care unit worked with Orchard Valley’s school nurse to provide information packets to the students about the warning signs of stroke and how timely medical care can greatly mitigate the effects of a stroke. Students were taught the importance of calling 911 immediately for anyone exhibiting stroke symptoms.
Thirteen winning entries were selected from the students’ creations, and they were featured in a calendar. Two-thousand copies of the calendar, created on a shoestring budget of $5,000, were distributed through the school and the hospital. The modest, lowcost effort cut across generations in raising stroke awareness – first by educating the young artists, and then by sharing their knowledge and creativity with the broader community.
This simple act of community engagement and awareness is easily replicated and sustainable, an example of the health care community’s creative approach to grassroots engagement.
Catching a fall before it happens
Each year approximately onethird of elderly adults experience a fall, and while the majority of these occur outside the walls of a health care institution, the direct medical cost is about $20 billion annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the most common cause of injuries to adults aged 65 or over – including the leading cause of injury-related deaths.
Proactive strategies can help seniors protect themselves from falls, and that was the inspiration for the “Catch a Fall Before It Happens Program” at Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) University Hospital-Hamilton.
The RWJ Hamilton team combined education, outreach, screenings and other strategies to promote the lifestyle changes and self-management skills that seniors can use to protect themselves from falls. The hospital offered balance screenings and osteoporosis screenings for atrisk individuals. Those with signs of osteoporosis were referred for further evaluations, while those with balance issues were referred to one of RWJ Hamilton’s two Balance Centers.
Advanced screenings at the Centers included testing for some of the factors that contribute to balance issues, including inner ear function and neurological or vestibular disorder. “Computerized dynamic posturography,” which uses sensors and computer monitors, was used to record individuals’ body movement during balance tests.
But while the program relied on such high-tech innovation, other components were decidedly traditional – including good oldfashioned exercise. The RWJ Hamilton Center for Health and Wellness offered a 50-plus walking group, tai chi classes and aqua-exercise to its large base of senior citizen members.
The Center also hosted community education programs addressing the physical risk factors associated with falls. The educational outreach culminated in a Fall Prevention Day that included free screenings for balance, osteoporosis, vision, foot/shoe wear and other risk factors for falls.
The results: 6,532 older adults screened; 1,181 enrolled in exercise programs; and 1,457 educated about the risk of falls. A full 95% of program participants said they were making positive lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of falls.
Free medications offer financial relief to chronically ill patients
For many low-income or uninsured chronically ill patients, the decision to purchase costly, lifesaving prescription medication versus food or paying the rent is a harsh reality. Yet, without the medication, they are faced with dealing with illnesses that can be detrimental to their long-term health or, in some cases, fatal.
The Medication Assistance Program (MAP) at Somerset Medical Center was designed to help ease the financial burden and ultimately improve the patients’ health and quality of life so they could go to work, care for their families and perform basic daily activities.
In collaboration with several local agencies, including the Somerset County Food Bank, local pharmacies and others, Somerset Medical Center’s MAP provides patients with one-on-one case management, education and free medication through the guidance of a designated registered nurse (RN). Serving as both a health coach and advocate, the RN meets with patients throughout the year to assist them with medication questions and renewals. The RN also helps them navigate the health care process so they can become more independent health care consumers.
“Through our Medication Assistance Program, we have successfully helped the uninsured in our community to manage their health and chronic diseases, such as diabetes,” said Serena Collado, director of Somerset’s Community Health Department. “We not only help them save money on their prescription medications but help them understand how to use their medications and track that they are following their treatment regimens.”
The MAP registered 1,500 patient encounters 2008, provided more than $958,000 in free medication and saved participants more than $300,000.