Staff Profile: A Conversation with Lauren Eckel, MPH

June 16, 2023

Lauren Eckel joined HCIF in September 2022 as Project Coordinator for the Population Health team. Lauren provides support to multiple project teams in the management of community and population health projects. Prior to joining HCIF, Lauren worked as a Research Assistant for Pennsylvania State University on the FFC-AC-EIT research study, which strives to optimize function and physical activity and prevent adverse events among hospitalized patients with ADRD. She also interned for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Children and Families Out-of-School Time program as the Policy & Qualitative Researcher. Get to know Lauren better in this month’s staff profile.

How did you learn about HCIF and what prompted you to start working there?

I learned about HCIF while researching employment options after completing my master’s degree in Public Health from Drexel University in June 2022. I had heard wonderful things about HCIF and their mission to drive superior health care through collaboration and shared learning. HCIF’s mission and vision to create healthier communities through equitable access and quality health care directly aligned with my career goals and personal interests in the public health field which is initially what prompted me to join HCIF.

What has been your most rewarding professional experience thus far? What is your proudest accomplishment during your time at HCIF?

My most rewarding professional experience thus far is being able to work with so many partners whose missions align with creating healthier communities. Getting to know our partners on a deeper level and being able to connect with like-minded souls has truly been a rewarding experience. As for my proudest accomplishment during my time at HCIF, I am most proud of receiving my Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) Certificate. I couldn’t have done it without HCIF’s support.

What excites you most about your position at HCIF?

I am most excited to be able to provide support to many of our population health projects and bring about positive health changes to the communities to which HCIF serves.

What are your long-term career goals?

My long-term career goals are to one day work for the CDC as a Public Health Advisor and eventually go back to school to receive a DrPH in Leadership, Advocacy, and Equity.

What is a quote that inspires you in your work?

“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” By: Scott Belsky

Showcasing HCIF’s and Our Collaborative Partners’ Work at the 2023 Accelerating Health Equity Conference

April Reilly

June 15, 2023

From May 16-18, the American Hospital Association (AHA) hosted their Accelerating Health Equity Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Over 900 professionals gathered in Minneapolis to discuss innovative and strategic ways to accelerate health equity and improve community health. 

I, along with my colleague, Liz Owens, had the privilege of traveling to the conference to present on HCIF’s Health Equity Data Strategy Collaborative. Our learning session titled, ”Starting with the Basics: Assembling and Activating REaL and SOGI data” was held during the second day of the conference and we were joined by Dr. Stormee Williams, Children’s Health in Texas, and Morgan Black, The Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) (pictured below).  Each of our organizations were uniquely poised to share with the audience lessons learned about the collection and use of race, ethnicity, and language (REaL) and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data. Audience engagement was great, and reinforced that health systems are in very different places with this work – and that through collaboration we can learn so much from one another.

April Reilly, Dr. Stormee Williams, Morgan Black, and Liz Owens

Throughout the three days of the conference, the agenda was layered with noteworthy speakers and breakouts that encouraged attendees to think outside the hospital walls, create cross-sectional partnerships, and overcome challenges to address health inequities (just to name a few!). In total, we heard from 3 distinguished keynote speakers and attended around 10 breakout sessions learning from well over 20 different organizations on topics that ranged from addressing equity in ambulatory settings to creating community support for older adults to the intersection of health care and criminal justice. Day 1 kicked off with Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author Isabel Wilkerson who pulled back the curtain on the impact the American caste system has on our society, and on the inequitable medical care Black and Brown patients receive compared to White patients, while offering a path forward for creating a just and equitable future for all. “This is a national health crisis that should move anyone in a position of power to act,” Wilkerson said.

On Day 2, Dr. Ivor Horn, director of health equity and social determinants of health at Google, discussed the landscape of technology in health care – including its promising possibilities and potential perils. Horn also explained how health care and equity leaders can understand and challenge technology to support patients, employees and communities.

The conference concluded with remarks from Brian Smedley, equity scholar at the Urban Institute. He shared lessons learned and offered actionable steps as the U.S. and world move to further address structural racism. Smedley reminded the audience to reframe the conversation to center on “the sources of strength and resilience in the marginalized communities we serve.”

Overall, the themes of collaboration and lifting community voice resonated throughout each of the sessions we attended. We left the conference energized. We re-connected with colleagues. We made new connections. We had meaningful conversations.  And we will hold ourselves accountable to take what we learned and turn it into action to inform our work.

Finally, a special thank you to Carol Vianna from AHA for her patience and help in getting our group prepared to present at the conference! We couldn’t have done it without you!

The 2023 RISE Summit on Social Determinants of Health

by Sehrish Rashid, MPH, MA

April 20, 2020

Earlier this month, I attended the 2023 RISE Summit on Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) held at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park. The summit started with a series of workshops on April 2, followed by a two-day conference on April 3-4. The conference agenda had a balanced cross-sector representation from payers, health system partners, local/state governments, educational institutions, advocacy groups, non-profit, and community-based organizations (CBOs), which in itself is a good example of a collective approach towards health equity.

On Day 1, Seun Ross, DNP, MS, CRNP-F, NP-C, from Independence Blue Cross moderated a powerful opening panel “Addressing Systemic Racism as a Driver of Health Inequity” with Rachel J. Thornton, M.D., Ph.D., from Nemours Children’s Health and John Adams from Gray Matter Analytics as panelists. The discussion focused on the importance of better data collection as a means to addressing health equity. The panelists highlighted the need for a shared understanding of that data and emphasized the willingness to learn from mistakes. Using the example of Southeast Asian countries, Adams commented that the disaggregation of data as different communities poses different challenges, which could not be solved through a cookie-cutter approach. Dr. Thornton also suggested hiring community health workers as integral members of the care team. Geisinger’s Vice President of Health Innovations and HCIF Board member, Allison Hess, MBA, also contributed to a panel on Day 1 discussing Geisinger’s practices and lessons learned related to the collection and use of race and ethnicity data.

Day 2 was packed with empowering energy through two fireside chats by Chanda Hinton, Executive Director, Chanda Center for Health and the Chanda Plan Foundation, and Jasmine Zapata, M.D., MPH, award-winning author, community leader, youth empowerment specialist, and board-certified physician specializing in the fields of pediatrics and preventive medicine. Hinton shared her personal experience of becoming paralyzed below the chest at the age of nine due to an accidental shooting, and how she eventually became a patient advocate for people living with disabilities. Zapata shared her story about how she was personally impacted by racism and traumatic events, which eventually led her to address adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) both inside and outside her clinic walls. She established Beyond Beautiful Girls Empowerment Movement, which is an effort to empower girls through music, books, events, and youth development curricula.

Being surrounded by over 600 people who travelled across the country for this event was invigorating. I enjoyed learning from the speakers about how they have been working to achieve health equity and hearing personal impactful stories. I look forward to the opportunity to attend more professional development opportunities in the future!

Health Literacy Facilitates Workshop in Collaboration with Tandigm Health

March 30, 2023

On March 10, HCIF facilitated a train-the-trainer workshop titled “Advancing Health Equity: Providing Care in a Health Literate Way” for Tandigm Health in Conshohocken, PA. The workshop was led in-person by HCIF’s Health Literacy consultants and long-term subject matter experts, Rickie Brawer, PhD, MCHES, MPH, and James Plumb, MD, MPH.

Dr. Rickie Brawer & Dr. James Plumb have both been intimately involved with the founding, development, and leadership of Pennsylvania Health Literacy Coalition (PAHLC)* since its inception in 2010. You can read more about their work in their respective partner profiles here.

The agenda included background on health literacy, oral & written communication strategies, considerations for web-based materials, and special topics including considerations for serving clients who speak other languages, telehealth, as well as reducing bias in electronic health records.

The trainers shared data from multiple studies to explain why health literacy is important, for example, research has shown that 40-80% of the medical information, which patients are told during office visits, is immediately forgotten.

1. Anderson JL, Dodman S, Kopelman M, Fleming A. Patient information recall in a rheumatology clinic. Rheumatol Rehabil. 1979;18(1):18-22.
2. Kessels RP. Patients’ memory for medical information. J R Soc Med. 2003;96(5):219-222

Another recent study on patient accuracy in understanding common medical phrases (Gotlieb et al. 2022) was also utilized to teach how strategies, such as universal precautions approach, plain language, and teach-back could be helpful in advancing health equity through health literacy.

Gotlieb, R., Praska, C., Hendrickson, M. A., Marmet, J., Charpentier, V., Hause, E., Allen, K. A., Lunos, S., & Pitt, M. B. (2022). Accuracy in Patient Understanding of Common Medical Phrases. JAMA network open, 5(11), e2242972.

This full day workshop served as part II of the training series, followed by the initial 1.5-hour training session where the participants were oriented on the overall problem of low health literacy and its implications in Pennsylvania. The multidisciplinary team of Tandigm Health made the workshop successful through their attendance, meaningful interaction, and engagement.

*The Pennsylvania Health Literacy Coalition is an initiative of the Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF), funded by a Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH). If you would like to learn more about this regional health literacy initiative, please visit the PAHLC website.

President’s Update: National Patient Safety Awareness Week

Wendy Nickel

March 28, 2023

During recent travels, I was reminded of the jarring statistic from the Institute of Medicine’s  (IOM)1999 report, “To Err is Human,” that we lose the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of passengers daily in the US due to patient safety events. It boggles the mind to think that millions of people fly each day and yet they are more likely to die in a car accident on the way to the airport than in a plane crash. The safety record within aviation can mostly be attributed to a culture of safety that permeates the industry.

What makes flying so safe? Importantly, there is a just culture in aviation. This means that anyone – the pilot, a flight attendant, or a mechanic – can report an error, event, or near-miss without fear of retribution. Being able to raise a red flag by any team member ensures that more people are able to surface safety concerns before they become events.

Since the IOM report came out, the lessons learned in the aviation industry have been applied to patient safety. When comparing the two, many features in aviation can be likened to healthcare – the doctor or lead clinician often serves as the “pilot” supported by other critical team members. Team members in healthcare can include not only clinicians, but food and environmental services staff, other non-clinical staff members, and importantly, patients and families. Many healthcare organizations have adopted a just culture to ensure that anyone can surface a safety concern.

The theme of 2023’s National Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 12-18) was “Be a Patient Safety Hero: Anywhere, Anytime – Always.” This theme especially resonates this year as we evaluate the impacts of COVID on patient safety. During the height of the pandemic, fewer family members were able to visit with their loved ones, reducing the number of team members able to surface safety concerns. Additionally, ongoing workforce shortages have stressed the systems that were in place to catch safety concerns before they became events. A recent analysis shows that the gains which were made over the past 25 years in patient safety have been significantly impacted since COVID was first discovered in the US in late 2019, including increases in central line and catheter-associated urinary tract infections and ventilator-associated events.

During this National Patient Safety Awareness Week, HCIF acknowledges and celebrates all of the patient safety heroes who remain committed to the provision of the safest care for our patients. These include members of our Clinical Advisory Committee who steadfastly identify safety concerns in their own institutions and raise these as priorities in the region. We thank and recognize participants in our Partnership for Patient Care programs who take time out of their busy schedules to collaborate and learn together about topics such as medication safety, improving healthcare disparities, and healthcare associated infections. Through the PPC program, we are pleased to provide forums, such as Safe Table, that provide space for patient safety and quality professionals to come together to address serious safety events in a punitive-free and supportive environment.

Similar to the aviation industry – where every member of the team serves an important role in safety – anyone can be a patient safety hero, not just a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. Even patients themselves and their family members can serve as patient safety heroes. We all have a role to play in regaining the gains made in patient safety prior to COVID.