“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.

Site Visit and Tour of Philabundance Community Kitchen

Abeselom Gebreyesus, MPH(c), BA

November 3, 2022

The Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF) recently partnered with Philabundance to offer an experiential learning session to partners across two HCIF programs, COACH (Collaborative Opportunities to Advance Community Health) and Cities Changing Diabetes. This dual event brought together valued and innovative cross-sector organizations within a shared collaborative space. Our partners’ work supports HCIF’s vision of healthier communities through equitable, accessible, and quality health care.

Photo credit: Abeselom Gebreyesus, MPH(c), BA

On October 26, the Philabundance Community Kitchen hosted partner organizations from the Cities Changing Diabetes (CCD) and Collaborative Opportunities to Advance Community Health (COACH) programs. This inaugural, cross-project session brought together 11 partner organizations, all of which share overlapping programming in food access, food security, and chronic disease prevention and management. The CCD program brings together a global network of 25 cities working to curb the health burden of diabetes. In Philadelphia, the program integrates community-driven and place-based approaches across multiple sectors to address obesity and diabetes in the city’s vulnerable and underserved communities.

The Collaborative Opportunities to Advance Community Health (COACH) program brings together hospital/health system, public health, and community partners to address community health needs in southeastern Pennsylvania. Since launching in 2015, COACH has provided a forum for participants to explore collaborative implementation strategies as hospitals/health systems respond to priority needs identified through community health needs assessments (CHNAs). This month’s site visit and tour was the first in a series of COACH Experiences, a new form of programming where organizations within the collaborative host experiential learning sessions to further immerse our partners in the work being done in sites across greater Philadelphia.

Philabundance is an active partner organization in both the CCD and COACH programs.
Philabundance has been operating as one of the largest hunger relief organizations in the Greater Philadelphia area, distributing millions of pounds of food annually to those in need for nearly 40 years. Traditionally, Philabundance has focused on providing emergency food to relieve hunger across its nine-county service area in southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. In 2019, the organization expanded its mission to include a focus on long term solutions for food insecurity. Philabundance’s Community Food Access department spearheads initiatives aimed to disrupt the cycle of spending tradeoffs between food and other necessities that perpetuate food insecurity. By pairing food with the social determinants of health interventions provided by other community-based organizations, Philabundance aims to increase stability and long-term overall food security in the communities they serve, while helping to shorten lines at food distribution sites.

Philabundance Community Kitchen (PCK) is located in North Philadelphia’s Hartranft neighborhood and offers a 16-week culinary and vocational training program, which has been transforming the lives of low-to-no income individuals since 2000. Students are trained in a variety of food service environments to earn ServSafe certificates, employment and internship opportunities, and continuous support up to two years after graduation.

The session started with a tour of the counselling and professional development areas of the space, where attendees were able to learn about the various tools offered to students in the program and community members. We then visited the classrooms and training kitchens, as PCK staff walked us through the structure of the 16 week program. Lastly, the tour concluded with a walkthrough of the food storage and refrigeration areas, as well as a discussion on Philabundance’s commitment to reducing food waste and negative environmental impact. The staff was welcoming and taught attendees more about the history and impact of the Philabundance Community Kitchen. Over lunch, our collaborative participants discussed opportunities for cross-sector partnership to deepen place-based approaches layering supportive resources in spaces where communities work, learn, and live.

Youth Empowerment at Esperanza College’s Minorities in Health Sciences Symposium

Susan Cosgrove

October 28, 2022

On October 14, Esperanza College hosted their annual Minorities in Health Sciences Symposium. This event empowers youth to explore science that is relevant to our world today, and consider ways to make an impact together. This year’s Symposium marked a return to in-person sessions, and involved a continued focus on diabetes prevention and management. HCIF served as the event’s lead sponsor, through funding from Novo Nordisk to support Cities Changing Diabetes.

Featured sessions included inspirational keynotes, lunchtime panels with professionals in the health and science fields, student poster presentations, and afternoon activities. The hallways buzzed with excitement as students gained hands-on experience with DNA extraction, a dissection lab, virtual reality, 3-D printing, and other interactives from local science and health institutions. About 300 students attended the Symposium.

“There is so much talent in our youth, and sometimes all they need is a nudge, or seeing someone that looks like them that can inspire them to set goals and reach for them,” said Nilsa Graciani, PhD, Chief STEM Officer. “That is one of the reasons we present the Minorities in Health Sciences Symposium. This year the students not only learned about diabetes, but also learned about grit and determination. We really appreciate HCIF and Cities Changing Diabetes, our lead sponsor, and our other sponsors and all the people that care for our youth and brought their energy and expertise to the event to make it a success.”

Students in attendance at the event shared that it opened their eyes to different options, and that the speakers gave a lot of useful advice that they will use. According to one participant, the four keynote speakers, “really helped me have a better understanding of the medical pathways.” Another student said, “It provided a bunch of information in variety of areas in the healthcare field. In addition, the guest speakers who actually had experiences in these fields were very helpful in understanding their day to day life in their field.”

Esperanza College is one of the first Hispanic-serving institutions in Pennsylvania, and has spent the past three decades providing a variety of programs and institutions to build an “opportunity community” where all can live and thrive. As a partner in Cities Changing Diabetes, Esperanza established Champions of Hope, a youth-led diabetes education and prevention initiative, and the companion Diabuddy app that educates and encourages youth to complete wellness activities and challenges.

Mental Health, Access to Health Care and Food, and Community Violence Among Top Health Problems for Southeastern Pennsylvania

Nine health systems and 37 hospitals across five counties worked to identify recurring causes
of poor health and focus resources to support change

PHILADELPHIA – October 18, 2022 – Mental health conditions, racism and discrimination in health care settings, and community violence are among the 12 health priorities identified in the 2022 Southeastern Pennsylvania Community Health Needs Assessment (rCHNA) Coordinated by the Health Care Improvement Foundation in partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, a community health needs assessment is a federal requirement for non-profit hospitals. Hospitals are also required to develop implementation plans in response to the rCHNA findings.

“This comprehensive assessment enables us to identify the health and social needs of residents in southeastern Pennsylvania – particularly those who may experience inequities – so we can prioritize programs and direct services where most needed,” said Wendy Nickel, MPH, president, Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF). “Recognizing that hospitals and health systems often mutually serve the same communities, our assessment is unique in that it is a regional collaboration offering a broader view of the service needs and gaps across Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.”

The 12 regional community health needs and priority areas identified are:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions
  • Access to both primary and specialty care
  • Prevention and management of chronic diseases such as hypertension, cancer and diabetes
  • Prevention and treatment of substance use and related disorders
  • Navigating healthcare and health resources
  • Racism and discrimination in healthcare
  • Lack of access to healthy and affordable food
  • Availability of culturally and linguistically appropriate services
  • Impact of community violence
  • Safe, stable housing and homelessness
  • Socioeconomic disadvantages such as poverty and unemployment
  • Neighborhood conditions such as blight, lack of greenspace, and poor air and water quality

Regional collaboration
Conducted every three years in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, the rCHNA is in its second cycle as a regional collaboration and was expanded from 2019 to 2022 to include nine health systems and 37 hospitals. The assessment involves contributions from a wealth of stakeholders, including county health departments, local clinical and hospital patient advisory group leaders, community-based organizations that work with underserved populations, and residents across the five counties. In addition to HCIF’s coordinating efforts, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health spearheaded analysis of quantitative data. Independent qualitative experts were engaged to hold almost 50 Community Conversations and focus group discussions with residents and key stakeholders to identify needs and strengths. Across the five counties 26 Community Conversations and 21 focus group discussions were conducted that centered around a variety of “spotlight” topics including behavioral health, chronic disease, food insecurity, housing and homelessness, older adults and care, racism and discrimination in health care, substance use, and violence. Further primary and secondary data collection efforts also engaged residents with disabilities, community advisory board members at cancer centers, community-based organizations serving immigrant and heritage communities, and the voices of youth.

The report can be found here. It includes the list of participating hospitals, summaries of health indicators and qualitative data by geographic region, summaries of “spotlight” topics, an overview of the impact of COVID-19 including vaccinations and mortality rates, and solutions recommended by residents and stakeholders to address priority needs.

“The community health needs assessment is a comprehensive effort that gives us important insights from a public health perspective about the current health status, needs, and issues for not only people in Philadelphia but residents across southeastern Pennsylvania,” said Frank Franklin, PhD, JD, MPH, deputy health commissioner, Philadelphia Department of Public Health. “This information helps us to determine where we should focus our resources to best meet the community needs.”

About the Health Care Improvement Foundation
The Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF) is a nonprofit organization that drives high-value health care through multi-stakeholder collaboration and initiatives to improve access to, delivery of, and experience of care. We are dedicated to the vision of healthier communities through equitable, accessible, and quality health care. Learn more: hcifonline.org.

Recognizing Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month with Go to Know

Cassidy Tarullo

March 29, 2022

Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable types of cancer, yet is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States. Black Americans have the highest incidence and mortality rates, with death rates 40% higher than other racial or ethnic groups. Disparities in cancer rates can often be attributed to barriers to cancer prevention, detection, and treatment, all of which can be connected to systemic racial disparities in factors such as social determinants of health.

To combat this disparity, WURD Radio, Independence Blue Cross, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Penn Medicine, and LabCorp, partnered to launch, “Go to Know” in March 2021. Facilitated by HCIF, the goal of this initiative was to improve colorectal cancer screening rates among African Americans in Philadelphia. Screening is the most effective way to prevent or detect early stages of colorectal cancer, when it is most treatable. Through Go to Know, colorectal cancer screening FIT kits were distributed to WURD’s Radio audience. The FIT test is a simple and effective at-home stool-based test that can detect blood in the stool, an early indicator of colorectal cancer.

The Go to Know initiative was promoted by WURD through on-air interviews with physician experts, discussions by radio hosts with colorectal cancer survivors, social media campaigns, and other in-person promotional events, such as WURD’s Founder’s Day. The WURD website led listeners to a Colorectal Cancer Alliance patient navigator, who then assessed individuals’ risk of cancer and answered questions about the screening process. LabCorp distributed the kits to those who were deemed appropriate, and also managed the processing of any returned kits and securely sending results to providers. Any individual deemed high-risk or who received a positive FIT Kit result was referred to Penn Medicine for a colonoscopy.

During a six-month period:  

  • 145 FIT Kits were distributed, and 47 FIT Kits were completed and returned to LabCorp.
  • 11 symptomatic individuals were routed to medical consult, and 1 follow-up colonoscopy was completed due to being identified as high-risk.
  • Tens of thousands of individuals were reached and educated about the importance of colorectal cancer screening as a result of the campaign.

These results were achieved during the height of the COVID pandemic and thus we anticipate that future programs may have even more impactful outcomes. This program illustrates the power of innovative collaborations to save lives and reduce disparities in cancer screening and serves as a model for future prevention initiatives.