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.


Health Care Improvement Foundation Supports Collaborative Efforts in Philadelphia to Address Diabetes

Multi-stakeholder collaboration provides the foundation for transformative initiatives to improve diabetes prevention, care, and management.

November 12, 2020

PHILADELPHIA — November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, a time when communities across the country team up to bring attention to diabetes. Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF) is supporting multiple collaborative initiatives aimed at addressing diabetes in Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Novo Nordisk’s Cities Changing Diabetes, and The Philadelphia Diabetes Prevention Collaborative funded by the American Medical Association and led by the Jefferson College of Population Health (JCPH).

Since 2019, HCIF has lent expertise in project management, facilitation, evaluation, and stakeholder engagement as a local backbone organization for Cities Changing Diabetes – Philadelphia. This global program, sponsored by Novo Nordisk, helps cities around the world understand their unique diabetes challenges, identify areas and populations at greatest risk, and design and implement targeted solutions. In 2020, Cities Changing Diabetes – Philadelphia launched the Innovation Challenge, inviting stakeholders to compete for preliminary funding to implement new ideas for improving diabetes prevention, care, and management. Proposal development is underway, and the top five ideas will be announced in early 2021.

The Philadelphia Diabetes Prevention Collaborative (PDPC) promotes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Diabetes Prevention Program, a lifestyle-modification program launched in 2010 to address the increasing burden of type 2 diabetes. The PDPC brings together stakeholders from community-based organizations, academic health systems, providers, payers and local employers focused on disease prevention and health-promotion activities. The collaborative’s focus is twofold: educate providers and patients about effective lifestyle change programs, and ensure that interested participants have access to classes, which have continued virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Research has shown that Diabetes Prevention Program participants can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent (and 71 percent for people over 60 years of age). 

The need for targeted programs addressing diabetes in Philadelphia stems from the city’s standing as the poorest of America’s 10 largest cities and its ranking at the bottom of the commonwealth’s 67 counties in terms of health outcomes. Equitable access to preventive services and quality care is a priority for both initiatives. This has become particularly important in 2020, as diabetes and racial disparities in healthcare are risk factors for COVID-19.

For more information about HCIF’s diabetes initiatives, please contact Project Coordinator Jibreel Oliver, joliver@hcifonline.org.  

How HCIF is Celebrating Community Health Improvement Week June 2-8, 2019

June 4, 2019

The Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF) is celebrating Community Health Improvement Week from June 2nd through June 8th along with the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the Association for Community Health Improvement. This national event recognizes the critical role played by hospitals, health systems, and communities in improving health and well-being. Community Health Improvement Week aims to inspire hospitals to both acknowledge and share the ways in which they are contributing to patient and community health advancement.

To help with the development of community and population health measures, the AHA has released a digital toolkit, a compilation of such resources as blogs, webinars, podcasts, graphics, and guides.

HCIF supports advancements in community health through several population health projects, including Collaborative Opportunities to Advance Community Health (COACH), a regional collaborative Community Health Needs Assessment, and health literacy initiatives.

  • COACH brings local nonprofit health systems together alongside community-based partners to address social determinants of health. To date, this collaborative has focused on addressing food insecurity by screening patients and referring them to community-based resources that provide services such as direct food assistance, benefits connection, and nutrition education.
  • This year, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and HCIF led local nonprofit hospitals in a collaborative Community Health Needs Assessment process for the first time. The collaborative process reduces participation burden for local communities and lays groundwork for coordinated efforts to address priority needs that emerge from the assessment.
  • HCIF’s health literacy initiatives focus on improving patient-provider communication to achieve better health. While these initiatives seek to address health literacy challenges broadly, specific attention is paid to seniors, immigrants, and refugees through partnerships with community organizations that serve those groups.

Click here to learn more about HCIF’s population and community health initiatives.