Mayor Thomas M. Menino will bestow the 2011 Mayoral Prize for Innovations in Primary Care tomorrow on four Boston institutions whose landmark work on health care is improving patient care, driving down health care costs, and bringing innovation to the delivery of health care services.
The awards will be presented to the Joseph M. Smith Community Health Care Center in Allston for developing a system for tracking and coordinating care for patients in need of breast, cervical, and colon cancer screening; Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury for its partnership with the Boston Housing Authority to improve the health status of public housing residents and connect them to community services; John Hancock for creating a comprehensive employees’ wellness program that has incentivized healthy lifestyle choices and reduced health care costs; and the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation for investing $3.85 million in five Boston community health centers to standardize and coordinate diabetes care.
“I am enormously proud of these institutions for the groundbreaking work they are undertaking to improve primary care and reduce the burden on our health care system,” said Mayor Menino. “Their innovative and creative thinking is exactly what’s required to transform the primary care system and to make it more effective, efficient, and patient-focused. Boston is richer for the contributions they are making.”
The awards, now in their second year, will be handed out at a ceremony and symposium from 8:30 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Nov. 1, in the McKim Building, Lower Level B, of the Boston Public Library, 230 Dartmouth St. Dr. Robert J. Master, president and chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Care Alliance who has practiced internal medicine for more than 30 years, will deliver the keynote address.
The awards are funded by Partners HealthCare, which includes Brigham and Women’s Massachusetts General, and Faulkner hospitals. Winners were chosen by the Mayor based on recommendations from a 13-member selection committee consisting of representatives from a broad swath of the health care system, from consumers and clinicians to academics, policy-makers, and philanthropists.
Mayor Menino established the Mayoral Prize for Innovations in Primary Care in 2009 based on the findings from the Mayor’s Task Force on Improving Access to Primary Care in Boston. He convened the task force in February 2008, charging it with evaluating the current state of care in Boston and ensuring that all residents have access to affordable, high quality primary care services. One of the task force’s recommendations was to create the Mayoral Prize to recognize promising practices in the field.
“The innovative work of this year’s Mayoral Prize recipients are examples of the great ideas that exist in our city and that are worth building on,” said Dr. Paula A. Johnson, chief of women’s health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, chair of the mayor’s primary care task force, and chair of the Boston Public Health Commission’s board. “We salute their efforts and challenge other institutions and organizations to help us address the gaps in the primary care system.”
The following is the list of Mayoral Prize recipients and a description of their work:
Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center
The Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center is being honored for its Prevention and Wellness (P&W) program. Collaborating with patient navigators, technology staff developed a system for tracking and coordinating care for patients in need of breast, cervical, and colon cancer screenings. In 2008, P&W adopted a customized electronic medical record so the health center’s patient navigators could view and track a patient’s screening history, ensure that all orders dispensed are fulfilled, and communicate with the primary care providers about outstanding patient needs. This system allows the health center to fully realize the promise of an electronic medical record system while reinforcing a patient-centered model of care, enabling providers to tailor their follow up to the individual’s needs and maximizing care coordination. The innovation has led to an astounding increase in the number of patients receiving the recommended colon and cervical cancer screenings as well as a significant decrease in the number of patients who arrive unprepared for screening visits.
Whittier Street Health Center
Whittier Street Health Center is a mainstay in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, providing primary care, behavioral health, dental and vision care to a diverse population of patients. Last year, Whittier Street took their services a step further with the development of the Vibrant Communities Program. Vibrant Communities is a partnership between Whittier Street and the Boston Housing Authority aimed at improving the health status of a particularly vulnerable patient population: public housing residents. The program utilizes “social health coordinators” to improve health outcomes by connecting residents not only to medical care, but also to the community services that help residents address what they identify as their biggest health concerns: unemployment, community violence, and stress. Together with the traditional services offered by Whittier, Vibrant Communities is helping public housing residents in Boston live out their full health potential. In the coming year, this program will be expanded to include four additional housing projects.
The average full-time employee spends at least 9 hours a day on the job, making the worksite an important determining factor in the health of millions of American workers. John Hancock, a financial services firm that employs nearly 4,000 people in the Commonwealth, has responded by developing a comprehensive wellness program, HealthMatters (HM). Together with their insurance carrier, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and their food services contractor, Aramark, John Hancock’s wellness program has incentivized healthy lifestyle choices and improved the quality of food offerings in their company cafeteria. Through their Healthy Returns program, the company rewards employees who set and achieve wellness goals. The Full Yield program, which was first piloted in Boston, offers healthier cafeteria options along with educational programs on healthy eating, fitness, and nutrition. Together, these programs have helped employees lose weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and quit smoking, resulting in a 3-to-1 combined return on investment for John Hancock and their employees.
Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation
The Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation earned its prize for their Boston-based Diabetes Self-Management Initiative. This five-year, $3.85 million investment enabled five community health centers in Boston’s poorest neighborhoods to standardize and coordinate diabetes care, pilot innovative care strategies, and enhance patient education and staff training. An evaluation of the initiative found improvements in diabetic patients at all funded health centers and that the programs were a cost-effective way to reduce the burden of disease. This positive outcome not only benefits the patients in primarily low-income neighborhoods, but also positions these health centers to become model diabetes care providers, which will help ensure the sustainability of this investment.