Tuesday, May 9, 2017

National Nurses Week: On The Front line of Care for Those Without A Home

When Cedric was released from the hospital following a 6-month stay due to major surgery and complications, he needed a place to recover and set all of his follow-up care appointments. Cedric was without a home at the time.

Denise McDaniel with Jorge at Pathway Recuperative Care
At National Health Foundation’s Pathway Recuperative Care program, Cedric found a place to recover from his health issues and more; Denise McDaniel, LVN, the Medical Coordinator at Pathway Recuperative Care’s Los Angeles location, treated him with love and kindness.

“At Pathway Recuperative Care, our nursing staff provides medical oversight which means we keep a close watch on their health to ensure they are healing appropriately and that all of their follow-up medical appointments are set and met,” shared Kelly Bruno, President and CEO of National Health Foundation (NHF), “more importantly, we care. We care deeply that our clients have an interruption in homelessness and if this triggers a desire to be connected with services to find their way into a permanent and stable housing situation, we walk that journey with them as well. But it is our exceptional nursing staff that is on the front line of delivering that life-changing care.”

For Denise and her counterpart at Pathway Recuperative Care’s San Gabriel Valley location, Tammy Grimes, LVN, a typical day involves caring for numerous clients while working with social workers and support staff as stable housing is secured.

“I get so excited when we have arranged for housing for a client. It gives them the opportunity to focus on something other than where they will lay their head each night,” shared Tammy. For Denise, the joy of seeing the smile on an individual’s face when they receive housing is the favorite part of her job.

Working with individuals who are without a home has brought Denise and Tammy face to face with the most common misconceptions about this population, “I see people fearing those without a home and that is something I would love to change,” shared Denise. For Tammy, the notion that everyone who is without a home is on drugs or alcohol is far from the truth, “ The truth is everyone has a story and they are all different.”

Denise is inspired by her clients’ tenacity, “I’m always humbled by the people I work with. They are willing to try and start over from scratch.” Tammy’s thoughts turn to the fundamental need for housing, “Living conditions make treating and coping with health issues more difficult. Health cannot be a priority if the individual is focused on their safety and where they will sleep at night. Mortality is higher living on the street.” Both nurses have one wish for their clients: Stable housing in a community that is safe and loving.

For Bruno, having exceptional staff working with clients has raised the bar of what compassionate care looks like, “On behalf of all of us at NHF, I salute our nurses and thank them for delivering far more than health. Through their compassion, strength and the love for what they do, they deliver a deep caring that is life-changing and inspiring to us all.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pathway Recuperative Care: Caring and Connecting

Cedric has been homeless for 6 months and has spent nearly half of that time in the Hospital. A liver transplant and a subsequent bout with pneumonia left the young man weakened and in need of care that extended well beyond his hospital stay. Through a partnership with National Health Foundation (NHF) and a local hospital, Cedric was able to receive continued care at NHF’s Pathway Recuperative Care.

Like many individuals who have undergone major surgery, Cedric had countless follow-up appointments he needed to make and manage. For individuals who have a home and resources such as a car and family support, such care is challenging, but manageable. For individuals without a home, the demands of post-operative care are rarely met and subsequent hospitalizations are frequently necessary.

With the help of staff at Pathway Recuperative Care, Cedric attended all of his appointments and his health has taken a turn for the better. His strength returning, the staff then turned their attention to connecting Cedric with all of the resources available to him and to finding a permanent and stable housing situation.  “The concept behind Pathway Recuperative Care is to provide care to the whole person,” shared Shakoya Green, Pathway Recuperative Care Program Director. “First we provide a safe and comfortable temporary home with medical oversight so that the patient may heal physically. Then we look at the situation that led to the individual losing their home and their health. By addressing the social determinants of health that challenged the individual, we can arrive at a path to health.” For Cedric, there was a need to connect him with the Department of Public Social Services to apply for financial benefits. Then staff worked with Cedric to secure a permanent home. He was connected with his birth mother in New Jersey who flew to Los Angeles to bring her son home.

When asked how he felt about his nearly 2-month stay at Pathway Recuperative Care Cedric responded, “ I am feeling incredibly blessed to have been at Pathway. After being in the hospital as long as I have, it was nice to reconnect with people. After getting a liver transplant I feel like I got a second chance and Pathway helped me on my way.” Green added, “Pathway Recuperative Care demonstrates and puts into action the idea that home is health. Without a ‘home’, a person cannot thrive and be healthy. We are so pleased that we were able to connect Cedric with his family and walk with him on this part of his journey.”

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

At The Intersection of Health and Education: National Health Foundation’s Be A STAR Program

National research has identified a significant link between education and health. High school graduates live longer, healthier lives than dropouts. College graduates have even longer life spans, better access to health care, better dietary and health practices, and overall better health. Unfortunately, about a quarter of California counties have high school dropout rates close to 20 percent or more, including Los Angeles at 17 percent. While there are numerous factors contributing to the dropout rate, one third of female dropouts say that pregnancy or becoming a parent played a role in their decision to leave school. Girls most at risk for teen pregnancy are Latinas from low income communities. There is critical need for education and support services to reach these adolescent girls at the greatest risk for pregnancy and subsequent dropout before they get pregnant, ultimately breaking the cycle of teenage pregnancy. 

With this information, National Health Foundation has implemented the Go Harold’s Way; Be a STAR (Successful Teens Acting Responsibly) Girls Program. Goals of this program include reducing the incidence of pregnancy, improving high school graduation/completion and connecting participants to health and social services and resources in their community. Since its implementation, NHF has provided more than 700 students with the tools and education they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abilities to make healthy life choices. 

Haydee and Yvonne are two participants of the Be a STAR Girls program at Ramona High School and are set to graduate in 2018. For Haydee, the program gave her key information she did not have access to beforehand, “I learned there’s many ways to prevent pregnancy and learned all the parts of the female anatomy and what they do. I feel confident about my reproductive health because I’m more informed about different topics that we learned in class.” The weekly topics touched on birth control and STDs as well as how to plan for the future. Yvonne admitted that before being in the program, ‘ditching school’ was a chronic issue. “Before coming to Ramona I was ditching a lot of school and now I come to class every day and will graduate next year. My plans after graduating school are to get a job and go to community college to help me have a career later in life.” In addition to committing to her future, Yvonne has a deeper appreciation for her body and her health, “In the Be a STAR class we got to talk about our physical bodies and how a woman’s body looks on the inside. We also lean to be more confident about our bodies. I now know how to protect myself from getting an STD.”When not in school Yvonne enjoys playing basketball with friends while Haydee likes to try new things. Both students have expressed that this program has given them the confidence to be able to make healthy decisions when it comes to their reproductive health. After graduation, both Haydee and Yvonne plan to attend community college laying the path for their future careers.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

#SocialWorkMonth Profile: Sharonda Bazzell- O’balles, MSW, White Memorial Medical Center

Sharonda recalls the story of Robert who was in need of extra healing time after a hospital stay but who had also expressed an interest in conquering his substance abuse issues. As an individual who was without a home, Sharonda knew her patient could qualify for recuperative care, but would that be enough to keep him healthy and safe until room became available at a substance abuse program?

As a social worker at White Memorial Medical Center, Sharonda is one of the point people who, at the end of a patient’s stay in the hospital, sees to it that they are safely discharged. When a patient is discharged and they do not have a home to return to, Sharonda finds alternative solutions based on the patient’s most pressing needs. Some times the needs and the available services do not synch. Robert was a candidate for recuperative care and for the substance abuse program, but there was a significant gap between when his stay in recuperative care would end and the substance abuse program could take him in. The risk Robert was facing was a return to the streets and possibly missing the opportunity for the rehabilitation that he wanted to receive.

As a National Health Foundation Pathway Recuperative Care hospital partner, White Memorial Medical Center works hand in hand with Pathway staff to ensure the best possible outcomes for each client. For Robert, Pathway staff advocated on his behalf and they were able to secure additional time for him to stay at Pathway until a space became available for him at the substance abuse program.

Sharonda has found that many of her patients are not connected to the resources available, “The hospital routinely serves patients that have recently travelled to LA and are unfamiliar with the systems and how to access resources. I assist them by connecting them to the resources they need upon discharge.”  Navigating the many programs and options has given Sharonda a unique perspective on working with this vulnerable population, “ While it gives me comfort knowing that in recuperative care they are continuing to receive assistance during this moment in their lives, I would like to see an ongoing collaboration of agencies working together to close the gap in services and needs of our homeless population.”

Robert’s story is one with a happy ending. He recently completed his 90-day rehabilitation program.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Access to Fresh Foods is Taking Root in Historic South Los Angeles

March is National Nutrition Month. It is also the month that National Health Foundation is beginning to offer nutrition education classes in Historic South Los Angeles. As part of the Champions for Change Healthy Communities Initiative grant received from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, NHF will be conducting 30 minute to 1 hour long nutrition education classes at schools in the community with students and parents. Led by our trained and expert staff, these classes are intended to educate South LA residents about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity. Classes will cover topics such as the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines, the importance of drinking water, reading and understanding food labels, shopping for healthy food on a budget and everyday activities that can help maintain weight and fend off disease.

These classes are one part of the healthy story that is emerging from within South LA.  Our Health Academy students have worked with two, and are currently assessing 8, local food markets to see how they advertise and sell healthy options. They collaborate with store owners to improve the visibility of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and offer help with marketing these options to the community. Their efforts are working! More healthy foods are visible to consumers and one market owner has even changed his food procurement process to receive healthy food from a local produce distributor, making these healthy options more available and cheaper to the community. 

Together, these two approaches are intended to tackle the social determinant of health that is access to healthy and nutritious food. South LA is considered a food desert with few healthy food options available. Furthermore, food insecurity is an issue that many in the community face. The nutrition education classes are being offered with the expectation of shifting the trend of obesity and heart disease in the community.  By reinforcing the positive changes happening in South LA, including the availability of fresh produce at corner markets, we will ensure that every individual and every family has the access to the knowledge and ability to eat healthy and live their best, healthiest life.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Health and Dignity for the Homeless

Nancy Hu, a Social Worker with California Hospital Medical Center, Dignity Health, would like to see lower readmission rates, reinfections and fewer visits to the emergency department for her patients. Nancy works with patients who are about to be discharged from the hospital and the majority of her caseload is individuals who are without a home.

“I see myself as someone who advocates for my patients and collaborates with the nurses, doctors and case managers to work towards a safe discharge,” shared Nancy, “The challenge is that when someone is not able to heal in a clean and safe environment, it puts the person at a much greater risk of another hospitalization and further exacerbating their illness, all of which can be prevented.”

Since 2015, National Health Foundation’s Pathways Recuperative Care has become one avenue for safe discharge of homeless patients from partner hospitals. Pathways offers temporary housing with medical oversight to individuals who are without a home. The advantage for patients is that they can heal safely and are given the support needed to adhere to follow-up care schedules. For partnering hospitals the advantage is peace of mind, “The hospital feels reassured that the patients are able to go somewhere clean and safe to heal while getting assistance with follow-up appointments and housing,” says Nancy.

Not every homeless patient opts for accepting Recuperative Care and not all are a fit. As a social worker, Nancy assesses each patient who is homeless to see if they are appropriate for recuperative care, if they are motivated to get housing, and those who wish to recover from their medical condition. Not all homeless patients want to be housed, “Personally, it makes me sad because it doesn’t have to be that way. But I also know that we all have rights to make choices that we feel is best for ourselves and to choose to take help when it is offered.”

On any given day, Nancy is balancing and prioritizing between a victim of crime, someone who is homeless and being discharged while it is cold and raining outside, and another who is dealing with a life changing/altering diagnosis. We at National Health Foundation’s Pathways Recuperative Care are grateful to Nancy and Social Workers everywhere who are providing essential care to patients at their most vulnerable; upon discharge from the hospital.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Celebrating #SocialWorkMonth: Care and Compassion in the Face of Homelessness

Frank healing at NHF's Pathway Recuperative Care center.
Ron Jacobs, LCSW, Social Work Services at White MemorialMedical Center (WMMC) in Los Angeles, works closely with patients as they prepare for discharge from the hospital. Nearly every day Ron is faced with the challenge of discharging a patient who does not have a home to return to. 

“I make sure that those I serve are listened to and heard. I motivate individuals to enhance their strengths and abilities and help restore their sense of dignity while avoiding stigmatizing anyone as homeless,” says Ron of his role, “and I also realize that along with empathy, there must be action, resources and referrals.

March is #SocialWorkMonth and National Health Foundation(NHF) is celebrating the invaluable work that social workers do in the community, in particular the work of those who coordinate the discharge and referral of patients who are homeless.

 Until 2015, patients in Los Angeles County who were without a home and were discharged from the hospital faced completing their healing on the street. For many, a lack of follow-up care meant a certain return to the hospital. For social workers like Ron, it meant forming a connection with an individual upon discharge only to see them back in the hospital. “Knowing that there is a resource that is an alternative to the streets is a wonderful advantage we can now offer these individuals,” shared Ron, “Pathway Recuperative Care provides the opportunity for transitional healing, emotional support, resources and concrete solutions to enable our patients to reconnect with their community.”

Shakoya Green, MA, MSW, National Health Foundation’s Recuperative Care Program Director had this to say about Ron, “We simply cannot do what we do without Social Workers like Ron who go above and beyond their ‘job’ to really connect with their patients on a deeper level. Ron sees the whole person and addresses their needs from a place of love. We have been able to work closely together to achieve some incredible outcomes for our patients.”

Frank was discharged from WMMC last fall after several complex procedures. Ron ensured a smooth referral to Pathway Recuperative Care and helped to secure every possible form of care to ensure Frank recovered from his physical issues. Frank was able to benefit from the full spectrum of services that the partnership provided and has since fully healed physically and has been provided with a stable housing solution. “Frank’s case exemplifies what is possible when there is a ‘champion’ for the homeless who sees beyond the sometimes harsh exterior and works compassionately and diligently to ensure success,” added Shakoya.

Ron’s motto is a moving one, “I strive to meet each person as he/she is and I begin where the person is at in their journey in life. I try to remember that we are all ‘poor’ in one way or another and we all need some degree of healing at some time in our lives. There is no ‘healer and would be healed’. When we help someone in need, we are all better off. We all share a common humanity.”

All of us at Pathway Recuperative Care and National Health Foundation salute you, Ron, and all Social Workers.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Four Outstanding Individuals Join National Health Foundation’s Board

George W. Greene, Esq., John Calderone, PhD, Paul Lopez, and Jeffrey L. Thompson recently joined National Health Foundation’s Board of Directors. Greene, Calderone, Lopez, and Thompson are committed to reducing health disparities in low-income communities.

George W. Greene, Esq recently became President and CEO of the Hospital Association of Southern California. Prior to this position, he served for seven years as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. Known as a consensus builder, Greene’s leadership philosophy is that family and health must come first for all individuals. He is the proud father of three children, ages 15, 13, and 19 months. National Health Foundation’s work with individuals experiencing homelessness, low-income teens, and at-risk youth is close to his heart.

John A. Calderone, Ph.D., former Chief Executive Officer for Olympia Medical Center in Los Angeles has over 40 years’ experience in the healthcare industry. He served on the Board of Directors for the Hospital Association of Southern California for over fifteen years, its Executive Committee for seven years, and as Board Chairman in 2014. He served on the Board of Trustees and its Executive Committee for the California Hospital Association. His personal experience of modest beginnings fostered his deep belief in educational mentorship, giving back to the community, assisting those less fortunate, and a sincere commitment to helping individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
Paul Lopez is the Senior Vice President, National Strategy and Development, with Prospect Medical Systems, where he is responsible for franchise model of care and clinical programs development, expansion, and management. Paul has a passion and affinity for underserved and vulnerable populations. His primary goal in life and work is to find innovative solutions that bridge gaps in access and quality care. In the healthcare arena, Paul successfully leads teams that deliver quality healthcare and programs to those most in need. His personal values, motivations, and compassion for those in need are closely aligned with National Health Foundation’s mission and vision.
Jeffrey L. Thompson currently serves as Associate Partner within IBM's consulting practice, having previously held roles as Vice President at the Walt Disney Company and VP, Digital Strategy at Conde Nast Entertainment. Thompson’s personal passion for leveraging advanced analytics to improve healthcare outcomes for underrepresented populations is well-matched to NHF's mission. Thompson hopes to leverage his media background to increase awareness of NHF's important mission. He has previously served on the Board of Directors of the Congressional Awards Foundation, student member of USC's Board of Trustees, and currently serves on the Board of Advisors of Digital Hollywood.

National Health Foundation’s mission is to improve the health of individuals and underserved communities by taking action on the social determinants of health and bridging gaps in the healthcare system. Its vision is that all people regardless of who they are or where they live, can achieve their highest level of health.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Flor’s Mini Market Gets Fresh With National Health Foundation’s Community Health Liaisons

Flor’s Mini Market is a neighborhood corner store that is one block from Thomas Jefferson High School in Historic South Central Los Angeles. It’s a favorite among high school students who frequently stop by to purchase a bite to eat before class or during lunchtime. Her merchandise mix is typical of a ‘tienda’ with must have home and personal products as well as some food and beverage inventory. Until recently, the food for sale was mostly packaged with few healthy food options. In a community that is both a food desert (with few healthy food retail choices) and a food swamp (categorized by a prevalence of unhealthy food outlets), markets such as Flor’s have come to represent unique opportunities and key potential partners in the effort to improve access to healthy, affordable foods in South Los Angeles.

Recently, Flor joined the Community Markets Purchasing Real and Affordable Foods (COMPRA foods) program, an innovative food distribution system that caters to small businesses that want to offer healthy food and leverages their collective purchases to secure better prices and quality products from wholesalers. During the first delivery of fresh produce last week, Flor was approached by a dynamic group of high school students known as the Community Health Liaisons (CHL). As part of  National Health Foundation’s (NHF’s) BUILD Health L.A. Initiative, CHL youth   
work with neighborhood markets to help corner store owners introduce healthy produce, and better merchandise fresh fruits and vegetables. CHL’s help store owners make small, gradual changes by providing technical assistance that can help overcome the challenge of introducing new inventory and taking on new risk.

Two CHL youth, Ariana Vega and Melissa Villarruel, ‘adopted’ Flor’s Mini Market to help the store owner adjust to the demands of selling perishable healthy produce and help to ensure changes are profitable and sustainable, with the overall goal of increasing the availability of fresh, quality fruits and vegetables in their neighborhood. During this initial meeting, the CHL’s helped Flor inventory produce shipment and begin using marketing strategies to promote fruits and vegetables in-store.  Together they carved out space in the store for the produce and used baskets and other materials to entice consumers to consider adding fresh fruits and vegetables to their purchases. Within a week, the students will check back with Flor see how things are going and modify their strategies as needed.

The students are keenly aware of the alarming prevalence of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in their community. For NHF, the BUILD Health Initiative presents an opportunity for partners to come together and improve the health of the community from within. By working with local high schools, NHF is able to directly connect with the energy of youth from the community. NHF brings CHL youth together with community partners such as Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN), Los Angeles Food Policy Council, and Los Angeles Department of Public Health among others to share knowledge and to craft innovative solutions to build a healthier South Los Angeles overall.  The students will continue to monitor their efforts to glean important outcomes, however, their efforts have already been well received by storeowners and the community alike.

For Ariana and Melissa, the experience of working with Flor left them inspired, “I felt really good knowing that we would be able to help her not only to sell her produce but also some of the other merchandise in her store,” shared Ariana. Melissa had this to say about her experience, “The level of excitement I had from helping Flor was inexplicable, it felt as if I were riding a roller coaster, or the feeling when you just learn to drive; it felt great!”

 To read Ariana’s account of her work with Flor, please click here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Increasing Opportunities for Exercise in Historic South Los Angeles

On February 13th, 2017, Central Avenue Jazz Park in Historic South Central Los Angeles was transformed into an outdoor fitness space with community members and instructors moving through workouts designed to increase cardiovascular capacity, boost energy levels and increase the feeling of wellbeing. For community member Claudia Durango, it was a welcomed event, “This is going to be really good for the community; we just need to continue having people show up.” The new program is part of the rollout of National Health Foundation’s (NHF) BUILD Health LA Initiative Community Action Plan for Historic South Central.
In 2016, NHF’s BUILD Health LA Community Health Liaisons, a group of local high school students and their mentors, surveyed the community to understand residents’ barriers to health. The results of the survey were captured in the Community Action Plan that aims to improve the health of the community through methods that have been identified by the community’s residents and that capitalize on partnerships and the assets available.
Historic South Central Los Angeles is 6 square miles, and is home to roughly 103,000 people. In this community, there are no gyms and there is only 0.4 acres of park space for every 100,000 people. Along with having limited access to open space, this community is considered both a food desert (with few healthy food retail choices) and a food swamp (categorized by a prevalence of unhealthy food outlets). Obesity and diabetes are common in this community, and while physicians recommend healthy eating and exercise, these lifestyle changes are challenging to practice with what is available in the community.
One of the needs the Community Action Plan addresses is for programs to keep residents physically active. Many stated that the classes that were available were too expensive and that the free programs had extensive waitlists of residents eager to join. We learned that these residents want to exercise and they will – if the opportunity is there.
As a result, we partnered with 3WINS Fitness, an innovative program spearheaded by Dr. Loy and Kinesiology students from California State University, Northridge. 3WINS Fitness “adopts” parks in Los Angeles, and sends Kinesiology students to teach community members how to exercise while nurturing a community mentality that leads to friendships, accountability and results!
In addition to 3WINS Fitness, NHF also partnered with California Hospital Medical Center, LA County Department of Public Health, LA City Parks and Recreation, Newton Community Police Station, All People’s Community Center, and A Place Called Home, to launch the fitness program. Classes take place Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at Central Avenue Jazz Park and All People’s Community Center.
Community members are thrilled with this new opportunity and have already built great rapport with the instructors from 3WINS. For NHF, the program represents a new way of delivering health to the community. “By creating an opportunity for the community to express their needs and actively engage in finding solutions to the health barriers they were experiencing, they are bringing about healthy changes from within,” shared NHF CEO Kelly Bruno.
Consistency is always the key with taking on a new behavior, but we are sure that with this new partnership and with the different components of the BUILD Health LA Initiative and Community Action Plan, the residents in Historic South Central Los Angeles will have new opportunities to live a healthier lifestyle.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

High School Health Activist Has Sights Set on Health Career

Aracely Ortiz, 2nd from left, presenting Health Academy's Cafeteria Makeover Project during the 
Youth Summit hosted by LACDPH, April 2015
Aracely Ortiz first heard about the Health Academy during a recruitment presentation in class when she was in 9th grade. It was also Health Academy’s first year at Thomas Jefferson Senior High. “I wasn’t really involved in anything else at that time,” she explains, “but Health Academy just sounded different from all the other groups I’d heard about, so I decided to go for it.”
She went on to submit an application and sat through an interview, and in the spring semester of 2014, Aracely became a member, or “youth leader,” of the brand-new Health Academy program. After attending a few meetings and experiencing first-hand what the program was about, she was hooked. “At first I was debating whether to continue or not, but everyone in the program was so nice and supportive. It felt like a good place to be.”

Through Health Academy, Aracely learned some unexpected things about her community. She learned how her neighborhood is often considered a food desert or food swamp because of the prevalence of fast food restaurants and liquor stores compared to full-service grocery stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables. While discussing food swamps, she said, “it was definitely eye-opening. I thought that we already had a lot of things in our community, but now I’ve realized that we don’t have as much as we should.”

Since realizing this, Aracely has actively worked to improve access to healthy food for her school and her community. She often shares information she learns through Health Academy with her family and friends. “I always show my parents the healthy food recipes I get from Health Academy, and we’ve started making them at home… I’ve also taught my parents how to read nutrition labels, and it’s something we look at now when we shop for food”.

Aracely has also taken on leadership roles in several Health Academy initiatives, such as implementing Smarter Lunchroom strategies in the school cafeteria and the Mini Farm Stand project. Throughout her participation, Aracely has been an important voice for her fellow students and community members. One moment she feels particularly proud of was attending a youth summit hosted by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health during her sophomore year, where she presented her team’s Cafeteria Makeover project to other high school students from across the County. “We made changes in the cafeteria that year that decreased the wait times for getting lunch and also got students more excited about the cafeteria food. More students started participating in the school lunch program, and I like to think our project helped… I felt really proud of how we presented our project and I think we were able to give other schools some good ideas.”

Her experience with Health Academy encouraged Aracely to be even more involved in school. Aside from Health Academy, she is now also an active member of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance chapter, Student Leadership and ROTC. Now a senior, Aracely is in her fourth and final year in Health Academy, where her role has expanded to include Youth Social Media Manager. In this position, she will work with other Health Academy students to create and post content for the NHF Health Academy Instagram page. Aracely is also getting ready for college next year and has already received acceptance letters from California State University, Dominguez Hills and Loyola Marymount University. She aspires to become a nurse someday, and credits her involvement in Health Academy for inspiring her interest in the health field. 

Aracely is one of over a hundred students that has participated in Health Academy which is going into its fourth year through funding from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Recently, National Health Foundation received another Department of Public Health grant, the Champions for Change – Healthy Communities Initiative, to expand Health Academy to another Los Angeles high school; allowing NHF’s Health Academy and its proven benefits to reach many more students like Aracely, their families and the community.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Two Men, Two Paths

Arnie and Mat arrived at National Health Foundation’s (NHF) Pathway Recuperative Care from partner hospitals in early December 2016. Both were in need of additional medical supervision and both were homeless. The similarities in their cases ended there. The task of delivering essential care and helping the two men find stable housing required an individualized plan that took into account their stories, their needs and their goals.

Arnie's multiple chronic medical conditions require monitoring and medication, both of which are challenging to maintain on a modest monthly social security check. He found himself unable to pay for rent and his condition deteriorated until he needed to be hospitalized. Upon discharge from the hospital he was homeless and in need of follow-up care. At Pathway Recuperative Care, Arnie worked closely with staff members on his care plan. This plan looks at the patient’s needs both medically and with respect to housing. Staff then began connecting Arnie to services available to him via the Department of Mental Health as well as medical services to ensure continuous improvement on both fronts. With Arnie’s motivation and Pathway staff persistence, he was able to secure stable housing that will ensure a sustained return to health.

For Mat, the struggle was no less intense. He came to Pathway Recuperative Care from a partner hospital with no money, no identification and no home. Struggling to recover from substance abuse, the 20-year-old had spent years in the foster care system and found emancipation to be more difficult than he had the skills to cope with. Upon arriving at Pathway Recuperative Care, the staff worked with Mat to reapply for General Relief, obtain a replacement Electronic Benefit Transfer card and kept him proactive in attending the necessary medical and social services appointments that would ensure his return to health. The last piece of Mat’s health plan was to secure stable housing.  Mat’s stable housing is such that he will receive the support he needs to maintain his health while acquiring the skills he needs to navigate adulthood.

For Pathway Recuperative Care staff, each patient has a vastly different set of circumstances that has led to the decline in their health and the loss of their home. “Each person who comes to Pathway is seen as an individual with distinct health needs. We take the time to understand their history and work with them to devise a plan that matches their needs and capacity for managing their progress to sustained health," explained Kelly Bruno, MSW, President/CEO National Health Foundation. For Arnie and Mat, the prospect of an end to homelessness was welcomed with large grins and a sense of accomplishment. “We find it impossible to speak about health without addressing the most fundamental social determinant of health: housing. Without a home, there can be no health,” asserts Bruno. With secure and supportive homes both Arnie and Mat can now turn their attention and energy towards their healing and health.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

National Health Foundation Awarded Nearly $1 Million to Address High Obesity Rates in Historic South Central Los Angeles

National Health Foundation (NHF) was awarded $880,000 from the Los Angeles CountyDepartment of Public Health with funding from the California Department of Public Health and the United States Department of Agriculture. The grant will support the Champions for Change - Healthy Communities Initiative, which aims to reduce the prevalence of obesity among low-income Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education eligible populations by providing nutrition education, physical activity promotion, and working to create healthier environments for low-income individuals and families where they live, learn, work, play, pray, and shop.

Key efforts under the initiative include teaching fundamental skills such as cooking, reading food labels, shopping on a budget, growing fruits and vegetables, and introducing low-cost and fun ways to be physically active. In addition, champions in communities throughout the County will be identified to help improve access to healthier foods and increase opportunities to be physical active in a variety of settings, including early childcare centers, schools, faith-based organizations, corner stores, parks, worksites, and cities.   

“National Health Foundation is pleased to be a part of this County-wide initiative, as we are committed to improving underserved communities by taking actions on the social determinants of health,” explained Kelly Bruno, MSW, President/CEO, National Health Foundation. “We are working toward making notable changes in the community by working with students in schools, local corner stores and community partners to make healthier foods more affordable and available as well as identify ways to integrate physical activity into the day to improve the overall health for families in South Central LA.” 

According to the LA County: A Cities andCommunities Health Report, obesity-related chronic illnesses continue to rank among the top ten leading causes of premature death, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. While the obesity epidemic continues to impact virtually all population groups, roughly 29% of children and 37% of adults in South Central LA are obese, which is significantly higher than the rest of Los Angeles County. LA County black and Latino resident’s fair worse when it comes to obesity and obesity-related illnesses compared to whites and Asians. Thirty-two percent of Latinos and thirty one percent of blacks are obese in LA County, compared to 18% of whites and 8% of Asians. When it comes to South Central Los Angeles black and Latino residents, who make up 10% and 87% of the population respectively, the situation is no different. 

Reducing obesity is a priority of Public Health and a key objective of the Champions for Change - Healthy Communities Initiative,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Interim Health Officer of Los Angeles County. “By investing in our communities and the people that we serve, we are hopeful that we can make impactful, long-lasting changes for better health outcomes.”