Through October 4, Weekly Report will profile the nominees for this year’s Community Health Leadership Award, which will be given out at the Annual Meeting October 11 in Seattle. Learn more about the award.
The Newport Hospital & Health Services Foundation adopted the Healthy Kids Snack Bags program in 2012, providing bags of healthy snacks to local students. In one year, the program expanded outside Newport and the boundaries of the public hospital district to the communities of Cusick, Washington, and Oldtown, Priest River, and Priest Lake, Idaho. By the end of the 2017-2018 school year, the program was serving more than 225 students, providing three healthy snacks a day, seven days a week, also providing them with educational materials about nutrition.
The bags are all USDA Smart Snack approved and include health grain snacks (like granola bars), string cheese, whole apples or oranges, and containers of fruit juice. There are no income guidelines or applications required to receive a snack bag, and elementary teachers and counselors identify children who would most benefit from the program. Most students who receive the snack bags receive food insecurity.
The program’s administrators also encourage school districts to expand their selections of snack bag recipients to include children going through adverse childhood experiences, such as family separation or divorce, malnourishment, childhood fatigue or relocation. If schools need extra bags, the hospital foundation will send them out with no questions asked. Foundation board members also volunteer their time at fundraisers and by stuffing snack bags, and they make personal contributions to the program.
The hospital foundation receives letters each year thanking them for the program. Teachers consistently express the difference the program has made in the lives of their students. Some of the stories are heartbreaking and bring administrators, employees and board members to tears.
The community has been extremely supportive of the program, with local school districts partnering with the health system foundation. The River Valley Beacon newspaper’s editor/owner also participates by bringing the snack bags to the Idaho communities each week.
Jefferson Healthcare in Port Townsend established its population health department in 2017 to help support the health system’s focus on population-level interventions, specifically those associated with social determinants of health. The program also helps close the gap in clinical care. Its three main areas of work are focused on housing, food and social isolation.
Each area of work focuses on a different demographic. The housing program works with those who are homeless or housing insecure, and it is operated in partnership with local community action program OlyCAP and local community mental health agency Discovery Behavioral Health. Most who benefit from the program also suffer from multiple comorbidities. With OlyCAP, the program provides funding for a six-room, 12-bed transitional housing complex that is specifically geared toward high utilizers of the health system. Discovery Behavioral Health provides the medical social work when it is needed.
The food insecurity program focuses primarily on children and young families, though portions of the program also touch older members of the community. It manages a “Veggie RX” program, which encourages providers to prescribe fruits and vegetables to at-risk families, and the prescriptions are then “filled” at the local farmers markets or food co-op. Free vouchers are given to families in need. This work is done in partnership with four school districts, as well as the Jefferson County Farmers Markets, local food banks, local healthy eating coalitions and OlyCAP.
The social isolation program has a dual focus, serving isolated older adults and families with young children. The department is leading a community-wide effort to develop an intergenerational day care center, which may be located in a new elementary school. This work is done in partnership with OlyCAP, the local school district, the YMCA and a community-led group. (Tim Pfarr)