Saving lives in Richmond’s 7th district

Initiative develops partnerships to improve health

Richmond’s East End has been plagued with negative health outcomes with the highest number of cases in the city of congestive health failure, long-term complications due to diabetes and hypertension.

In 2009, the Honorable Cynthia Newbille, Richmond City Councilwoman, sought to turn these health outcomes around and launched the 7th District Health and Wellness Initiative (HWI). Since then, the initiative has picked up a long list of partners, including Virginia Commonwealth University.

The grant-funded, collaborative effort has three focus areas – health education and outreach; health promotion; and screening, treatment and medical homes that coordinate patient’s care – designed to improve health outcomes and promote healthy lifestyles for residents of Richmond’s 7th District, which encompasses the East End.

“Too many are dying too early and too often in Richmond’s 7th District/East End community from preventative and/or treatable health conditions,” Newbille said. “However, working together, we can change this community health profile. We’re working together to engage the community in building a culture of active living and healthy eating.”

“The ultimate goal of the Healthy U, 7th District Health and Wellness Initiative,” Newbille continued, “is to promote community health and wellness, and improve the quality of life not only for residents of Richmond’s 7th District/East End community, but through replication, for all citizens throughout the city of Richmond. “

Along with VCU, collaborating partners include churches, the city health department, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, doctors in private practice, Sports Backers, YMCA, the Minority Health Consortium and others.

“This initiative is taking a multidimensional approach to improving health care,” said Carol Covington, community engagement strategies coordinator for the VCU Office of Health Innovation. “By collaborating, we’re avoiding duplication of efforts and using expertise from all groups to create synergy. It is very dynamic. Everyone at the table is very engaged and working to take the community to the next level. We’re hoping this becomes a model for other Virginia communities.”

Within VCU, numerous centers and offices are working together on several parts of the HWI. One of VCU’s efforts is to provide education on the new health care reform act.

“We’ve partnered with the Daily Planet, the Capital Area Health Network and VCU’s Center for Health Disparities to educate community members about the Affordable Care Act and to enroll potentially eligible individuals for health care coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace,” said Ross Airington, health policy analyst for the Office of Health Innovation.

“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a complicated piece of legislation. We’re helping people understand how health care reform impacts them and the differences in health insurance options through the marketplace,” Airington said.

In addition to partnering with the Capital Area Health Network, which uses Certified Application Counselors (CAC) to help with marketplace enrollment, the VCU Medical Center has trained CACs on staff as well who provide patients information about the Health Insurance Marketplace.

The VCU Medical Center has also developed a patient navigator model. Patient navigators assist patients in “navigating” what can be a very complex health care system. They offer support throughout the patients’ continuum of care as well as guidance in assessing health coverage options under the Affordable Care Act, including referrals to enrollment resources when appropriate.

The Office of Health Innovation is working with the VCU Division of Epidemiology and Community Health to conduct a program evaluation of the patient navigator model within the HWI.

“The evaluation sought to answer two questions – was the patient navigator model implemented as planned and were the intended outcomes being reached,” said Kristin Austin, director of health data analytics in the Office of Health Innovation.

The evaluation included interviews with key leadership for the project, descriptive analysis of an existing database maintained for the project and pre- and post-analysis of health care cost and utilization at the VCU Medical Center. The initial report is being prepared and will be presented to Newbille and the HWI committee later this spring.


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The goal of the Health and Wellness Initiative is to improve the quality of life not only for residents in Richmond's 7th District, but for all citizens throughout the city of Richmond.
The goal of the Health and Wellness Initiative is to improve the quality of life not only for residents in Richmond's 7th District, but for all citizens throughout the city of Richmond.