HCIF Facilitates Cross-Sector Collaboration Through Cities Changing Diabetes – Philadelphia

September 8, 2023

Cities Changing Diabetes – Philadelphia (CCD) is an HCIF-led project that integrates community-driven and place-based approaches across multiple sectors to address obesity, diabetes, and their social drivers in the city’s historically vulnerable and underserved communities. Funded by Novo Nordisk, CCD – Philadelphia promotes chronic disease awareness and addresses key social drivers of health through partnerships with more than two dozen organizations, including community-based organizations and houses of faith. This summer, HCIF advanced these objectives through the engagement and onboarding of four new partners, and by convening new & existing partners for a collaborative meeting and site visit.

On August 9, Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF) held our Annual Site Visit and Collaborative Meeting. The gathering was hosted by two CCD partners; Greener Partners and Calvary St. Augustine Episcopal Church. Featured sessions included a tour of the Belmont School Community Garden, new partner introductions, and reorientation through a collaborative mapping activity for partners to identify where they provide services like food access, health education and peer support across the city. The event utilized graphic recording services by Illustrating Progress across various sessions of the agenda. Other facilitated sessions encouraged partners to explore complementary activities and opportunities to increase impact through collaboration. You can find photos from the day below.

Cities Changing Diabetes – Philadelphia will continue to foster cross-sector collaboration to address social drivers of health for historically vulnerable and underserved communities, improve access to resources for healthy living, and ensure the sustainability of programs through 2025 with ongoing grant funding from Novo Nordisk.

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

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. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.42972

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.

“Meeting People Where They Are”: Takeaways from the 2022 Faith & Diabetes Summit

December 2, 2022

Since Cities Changing Diabetes – Philadelphia launched in 2019, faith and lay leaders have been recognized as key stakeholders to engage in diabetes and obesity management. Based on a model successfully implemented in Houston, Faith & Diabetes empowers communities of faith to better understand and address diabetes awareness, prevention, and management with special attention to religious belief, practice, and community life. Faith & Diabetes – Philadelphia is led by Health Care Improvement Foundation, and engages local experts, faith leaders, and faith communities to identify and address the unique opportunities and challenges for houses of faith in this region to meet the health needs of their communities.

On November 15, Faith & Diabetes Collaborative members and other partners came together in observance of American Diabetes Month and World Diabetes Day for the Faith & Diabetes Summit. This year’s event celebrated the many accomplishments of the Faith & Diabetes Collaborative in 2022. Featured sessions included an inspirational keynote from Dr. Annette Gadegbeku, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Assistant Dean of Community Health at Drexel University College of Medicine, and Servant Leader/iGroup Leader at Dare to Imagine Church, presentations from house of faith partners showcasing diabetes and obesity programming, and exploration of partnerships to strengthen collaborative efforts in 2023.

In her keynote, Dr. Gadegbeku emphasized the unique strengths of houses of faith in identifying, assessing, and addressing the health and spiritual needs of community members. “It is so important to acknowledge the intersection of faith and health, and that houses of faith have such a unique, important, and empowering position to meet people where they are,” said Dr. Gadegbeku. “I love meeting people where they are, and frankly, I am tired of us waiting for people to go to the doctor, go to the hospital. It’s time for us to really start providing care services, support, and resources where people feel most comfortable, where people come on a regular basis, and that’s in your houses of faith.” Faith and lay leaders reinforced Dr. Gadegbeku’s message while showcasing their passion and aptitudes for promoting healthy lifestyle changes within their communities. Programs delivered by houses of faith educated participants about identifying underlying risk and risk factors for diabetes, making healthier food choices, increasing physical activity, and building social support.

“It’s time for us to really start providing care services, support, and resources where people feel most comfortable, where people come on a a regular basis, and that’s in your houses of faith.”


Apu Patel, Director, Corporate Sustainability and Social Impact at Novo Nordisk, closed the Summit by highlighting the relationship between diabetes and holistic health: “We are called Cities Changing Diabetes, but diabetes does not live in a vacuum of our own health concerns. It’s there with weight gain, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other things. The way this kind of work thrives is when you think about diabetes and diet-related diseases being part of that whole health.”

Philadelphia’s Faith & Diabetes Collaborative will continue their work addressing the whole health needs of their congregations and communities through 2024, with ongoing grant funding from Novo Nordisk.