Improve Health Outcomes

Andy Hill Cancer Research Endowment (CARE) Distinguished Researchers Program - Request for Applications

The Andy Hill Cancer Research Endowment is pleased to announce that it will begin accepting applications for the second cohort of the Distinguished Researchers Program. The Distinguished Researchers Program will match, dollar for dollar, Washington research institutions’, organizations’, and commercial entities’ recruitment commitments up to $500,000 per recruitment, to add value to recruitment packages that bring leading cancer researchers to Washington. Andy Hill CARE grant funds may be used for any purpose (e.g., salaries, equipment, etc.) that advances the scholar’s research.

Please visit the Andy Hill CARE Fund website and the Distinguished Researchers page for a full program description and access to the application portal. The application period for the second cohort is February 15, 2018 to April 10, 2018.

Please contact Peter Choi (peter@empirehealthfoundation.org) with any questions regarding the program or application process.

Rising Strong Among Premera's 2017 Social Impact Grant Recipients

Social Impact Report written and published by Premera

The prevalence of behavioral health conditions is greater than the five most common chronic health conditions combined — heart failure, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and diabetes. By treating behavioral health issues, overall health will improve.

Recognizing the importance between behavioral health and overall health, in 2017, Premera Blue Cross launched a $3 million Social Impact Program aimed at supporting behavioral health issues, particularly in underserved communities. 

Last year, Premera granted $175,000 to Rising Strong, a partnership between Catholic Charities and Empire Health Foundation. Rising Strong is a family centered drug treatment program with housing for the entire family. It serves families with children at risk of entry to foster care due to abuse or neglect by parents with substance abuse disorder. 

“It is clear that behavioral health is inseparable from physical health. If you are severely depressed, you will not be able to effectively manage your diabetes, control physical pain, and you may self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs which can lead to addiction,” said Dr. Shawn West, Medical Director for Provider and Customer Engagement at Premera.

Premera launched a multimedia-driven Social Impact Report, which can be read here. The piece highlights the importance of why the company is stepping up to address behavioral health and how Premera is partnering with nonprofits in Alaska and Washington to creatively find solutions.

Rising Strong gives troubled Spokane parents another chance to keep their children

Written and published by The Spokesman-Review, December 26, 2017

Cassandra Moffitt knew she needed a change when she went to the hospital to give birth to her son, Zek.

Moffitt, 26, had already lost custody of her four older children when she went to Deaconess Hospital for her C-section in October. She remembered shooting up with meth before the birth.

“All my kids were born drug-addicted,” she said.

Normally, that would lead to the state seizing her baby. But this time, Moffitt was given another option: enroll in a residential treatment program, and keep her newborn.

Moffitt and 2-month-old Zek are one of eight families now enrolled in Rising Strong, a live-in treatment and parenting program for families in danger of losing custody of their children, often due to drug use.

Parents began moving into the dormlike rooms at the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary convent in October, with kids following a week or two later.

The program is run by Catholic Charities with funding and support from the Empire Health Foundation, as well as Premera Blue Cross and Providence. The goal is to keep kids with their biological parents and give those parents the skills they need to get clean and find jobs.

When Moffitt was growing up, her mother was in and out of prison and jail for drug possession, forgery and identity theft.

“At 12 years old, she showed me how to make bathroom crank,” she said. Moffitt was using it a year later.

When she was young, she promised herself she’d be nothing like her mother.

“I sit back now and I’m the spitting image of her and it sucks,” she said.

For a while, she held down a job, but that ended as her addiction deepened. She lost custody of her three oldest children, who are with her grandmother. Her fourth child was taken away from her after birth because she was still using meth.

She’s had no stable housing for the past decade, and she said that before she enrolled in Rising Strong, she usually slept around the Safeway on Market Street. She argued with caseworkers and the court commissioner assigned to her children and was angry most of the time.

“I’ve worked on my anger, worked on my temper,” she said, though she can still swear a blue streak. 

One of her counselors was able to help her calm down by finding a meditation video called, “(Expletive) It and Let that (Expletive) Go,” which blends New Age music, the relaxing voice of traditional meditation and a heavy dose of cursing.

Moffitt said it’s done wonders.

At Rising Strong, she’s learned how to swaddle Zek in a wrap covered with blue whales. He was getting over a bout of bronchitis and the flu this week, she said while bottle-feeding him.

“Every time I burp him, it comes out the wrong end!” she laughed.

Rising Strong will eventually take a total of 20 families for the pilot program. When parents graduate, they will be clean and will have earned either a GED or associate degree.

Child care is provided on-site for kids who aren’t school-age, and parents have a demanding all-day schedule of classes and group sessions focusing on addiction recovery, parenting skills and job readiness. Several said having a daily routine is helping their recovery by keeping them busy and out of old habits.

A single van serves as transportation for the families to get to doctor appointments, school and other places.

“We’re not going to let them fail. We’re going to help them stand up until they can,” said Teri Kook, the vice president of family resiliency at Empire Health. She’s “on loan” to Catholic Charities temporarily to help get the program off the ground, and gets to help cradle and feed the babies while parents are in classes.

“It’s the joy of my life to do this,” Kook said.

The on-site staff include peer support specialists who have experience losing their own children to foster care.

One of those specialists, Melissa Zielstorf, said she started using opioids at 14, then added other drugs. She moved to Spokane five years ago because her mother was here and she wanted to get off heroin.

“I called her on Christmas and said, ‘I need help,’ ” she said. After her first try at drug treatment, she kicked the heroin but picked up a meth habit. She lost custody of her kids 20 days later.

“Losing my kids was the worst thing I’ve ever been through,” she said. A second round of treatment helped her get clean and get her kids back.

Zielstorf now works with families at Rising Strong to show them recovery is possible and offer support. 

“I truly believe I went through everything because this is what I was made to do,” she said.

Tiffany Link and Anthony Whitehead share a room on the third floor of the convent with their infant daughter, Zamariah, who was born in July.

The couple have three older children who are 5, 3 and almost 2, who are scheduled to move into neighboring rooms Dec. 22. That just happens to be their third wedding anniversary.

The couple were homeless before joining Rising Strong. Whitehead was working in a restaurant while Link cared for the kids, but the two struggled to stay off meth and afford an apartment while supporting their children. They voluntarily surrendered their older children because they couldn’t care for them without housing and struggled to get custody back because of drug use.

“This program was our saving grace,” Whitehead said. “If it weren’t for this, we wouldn’t have our kids.”

Whitehead quit his job to move into Rising Strong and dedicate himself to recovery full time. He’s formed such a bond with Zamariah that she starts screaming if he leaves the room.

Residents support each other, and while there are tensions and frustrations, there are also inside jokes and moments of caring.

The group has started calling the small cribs provided for babies “taco beds” because they’re oblong and fold up to be stored. Whitehead is known as the “sheriff.”

Moffitt calls Zamariah the group’s “lucky bald baby” and said many of the babies in the convent like to wake her up first thing in the morning to play.

While walking through the halls, Link looked wistfully at the small kitchen on the fourth floor near Moffitt’s room.

“This is the nicest kitchen,” Link said.

“That’s because we keep it clean!” Moffitt responded. The refrigerator is covered with children’s artwork, inspirational quotes the parents have written for each other and sobriety certificates. Moffitt is on day 59.

For her, even the worst parts of parenting have become a privilege.

“I have yet to have any kind of urge to use,” she said as Zek stretched and started to cry in her arms. “This little cry right here is the reason why.”

Foundation helps schools launch scratch-cooking programs

Written and published by Food Management, December 4, 2017

This fall, LJ Klinkenberg introduced a new menu item at Cheney School District in Washington: chicken and lentil Korean street tacos. 

Klinkenberg, director of nutrition services, says students like that it’s a trendy-sounding food. “But they’re also getting lentils that are coming in from literally less than an hour from here.” 

Cheney students eat a variety of meals like this one, all made by district cooks: chicken and waffles, barbecue pulled pork sandwiches, deep-dish turkey potpies and pizza made with a naturally fermented crust from a local purveyor. About 80 percent of the food purchased by the district comes in the form of whole commodity or locally sourced ingredients.

A total of nine school districts in eastern Washington run scratch-cooking programs like this one, launched through partnerships with Empire Health Foundation. Cheney started its program in 2011 as one of the foundation’s pilot partners, at the dawn of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. 

“Our very first strategic initiative was to see to see what we could do to reduce childhood obesity rates in eastern Washington,” says Laura Martin, program associate for the foundation. 

The foundation has invested nearly $3 million dollars in its Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools initiative, which serves a mix of people living in urban, suburban and rural areas in a seven-county area and on tribal lands. The population mirrors those in other parts of the country: About one in three children are considered overweight or obese.

Partner districts deliver 4.7 million scratch-cooked meals yearly, serving 44% of the total K-12 student population in the region. In the Cheney School District, they’ve seen a 4.5 percent (statistically significant) reduction in the number of students classified as overweight or obese over a period of five years. It appears that they’re on the right track.

The foundation provides training for kitchen employees, connects schools with funding streams for needs such as kitchen equipment and helps districts reimagine their meal programs—from menu modifications to marketing plans. 

Klinkenberg, who served as the foundation’s liaison to school districts before he took the position in Cheney, says training kitchen workers to be school cooks is the foundation’s top priority. “There was a generation of people who had only been opening bags” to prepare school meals, he says. 

To help employees acquire an entirely new set of skills, the foundation brings teaching chefs into the schools through its culinary academy. Kitchen workers attend a four-day program where they learn bedrock culinary tasks such as knife skills, vegetable preparation and proper raw protein handling. They also learn management skills such as food buying practices and efficiency in the kitchen. 

If training is the most important aspect of launching a scratch-cooking program, marketing is the most important aspect of maintaining one, Martin says. To make it worthwhile, a district needs to change its food culture. 

“School food is pretty synonymous with hot dogs and tater tots and chips, so when you’re replacing those with roasted potatoes and baked chicken that has actual bones in it, marketing these programs to the kids and making it fun is imperative,” she says. “You can pat yourself on the back if you’re pumping out food that’s nutritious, but unless you’re actually getting those kids to eat the food then, to me, it’s not a success.” 

Employees are encouraged to reimagine their role in the lunchroom. Kitchen workers are educators who create opportunities for kids to try new things and promote healthy food choices. They begin with tasting events, where staff and students preview new menu items and share their opinions. Districts launch new menus at the start of the school year, so they hold promotional events in the spring, complete with voting boxes at elementary schools so students can rank dishes.

Throughout the year, workers describe new dishes in familiar ways to skeptical or inquisitive students. (A pasta casserole may be described as “curly noodles, tomato sauce and cheese.”) They also stock small cups on the line so they can offer samples. At the secondary level, table tents inform students about nutrition and new menu items. 

Districts also aim to elevate the appearance of school food, to make it look less industrial. Martin says it’s important in an age when more and more students pay attention to aesthetics: “From fifth grade up, that’s a pretty savvy customer group,” she says. 

The foundation has seen firsthand that, with resources and creativity, schools can make nutritious scratch meals that appeal to almost any student. 

“It can happen,” Martin says. “Kids actually will eat vegetables.”

Read the original article here

EHF Aging Services Partners Convene to Celebrate Health Coaches

Bill didn’t really care about managing his diabetes; what he did care about was panning for gold in the Colville Valley.

So began a convening of EHF health coaching partners this past fall.

The day brought together a cohort of peers serving the aging community across Eastern Washington. What surfaced from the event was a great sense of peer support and learning, and an excitement to continue sharing ideas and strategies.

  EHF’s Aging Services Partners came from all over the region in celebration of health coaching successes.

EHF’s Aging Services Partners came from all over the region in celebration of health coaching successes.

Finding Success

Health coaches from throughout the region shared stories of the positive impact they create for seniors, and the coaching styles that bring success to their work.

The common themes of compassion, understanding, and trust emerged across all the stories in the room.

Our health coach partners overwhelmingly agreed that it is essential to listen to what their clients find most important. By addressing goals that are meaningful to the clients, the coaches can introduce how health plays a part in achieving those goals.

   
  
   
  
    
  
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     David Donally, Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington, and Nina Adams, Rural Resources Community Action, exchange coaching strategies. David recommends being authentic and trusting the client. He tells the senior he works with  “you are the expert here; you know what you want”.

David Donally, Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington, and Nina Adams, Rural Resources Community Action, exchange coaching strategies. David recommends being authentic and trusting the client. He tells the senior he works with  “you are the expert here; you know what you want”.

Nora Flett with the Spokane Tribe of Indians Health and Human Services added that building a trusting relationship with the client encourages goal setting. She emphasized the importance of being truthful when working with seniors, stating, “I don’t claim to know everything, I learn with them.”

   
  
   
  
    
  
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     Nora Flett, Spokane Tribe of Indians Health and Human Services

Nora Flett, Spokane Tribe of Indians Health and Human Services

Helping Seniors Thrive

Bill hadn’t been out panning for gold in years. Complications from his diabetes made it too difficult to go. Bill didn’t know how to lower his A1c and didn’t think there was anything he could do to get healthier.

The story of “Bill” represents many of the clients served through EHF’s Aging Services portfolio. Pam Snider from Rural Resources Community Action explained that she tries to “meet clients where they’re at” in order to have the most impact.

Pam worked with Bill on his diabetes. During their weekly coaching sessions, Pam learned about Bill’s desire to get back to panning for gold. Knowing this goal, she helped Bill see how lowering his A1c could get him out in the mountains again. 

   
  
   
  
    
  
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     Colville National Forest. Source: USDA National Forest Service  https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/colville/about-forest/about-area

Colville National Forest. Source: USDA National Forest Service https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/colville/about-forest/about-area

Pam was able to frame the conversation of improved health and higher activation in the context of something that was meaningful to Bill.   

Pam’s story of Bill reminds us that the work we are doing creates better health outcomes and quality of life for older adults in our region. 

   
  
   
  
    
  
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     Pam Snider, Rural Resources Community Action

Pam Snider, Rural Resources Community Action

Supporting Our Partners

The day gave our health coach partners the space to share what supports they need to better serve their seniors.

We learned that a main concern for our coaches is getting seniors connected with the resources and services that will help them remain independent and thrive. Nina Adams from Rural Resources Community Action spoke to the systemic issues facing seniors in the community, including affordable housing, access to healthy food, and transportation.

“How can a senior afford a healthy diet? How can they eat a healthy diet on food bank supplies? There are issues we see but cannot always fix,” Nina commented.  

We learned another significant need for our coaches is self-care training related to grief and loss. Serving the elderly can be difficult work that requires dedicated individuals, and burnout is a hazard.

Our partners requested technical assistance for the development of coping skills to manage the stress and grief that comes with serving a vulnerable population.

   
  
   
  
    
  
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     From left: Shivon Brite, Empire Health Foundation, and Alison Ball, Confederated Colville Tribes, discuss support needs for health coaches. Alison Ball urges that health coaches need assistance with the grief process.

From left: Shivon Brite, Empire Health Foundation, and Alison Ball, Confederated Colville Tribes, discuss support needs for health coaches. Alison Ball urges that health coaches need assistance with the grief process.

Continuing the Spirit of Peer Collaboration

Our partners found that networking with peers, both at the service provider and administration levels, was a great benefit to their work.

Terry Titmus with Rural Resoures Community Action noted that he looks forward to learning of opportunities to capitalize on the efficiencies that others have discovered. 

   
  
   
  
    
  
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     From left: Terry Titmus, Rural Resources Community Action, and Wendy Thomas, Kalispel Tribe of Indians, found value in networking. 

From left: Terry Titmus, Rural Resources Community Action, and Wendy Thomas, Kalispel Tribe of Indians, found value in networking.