Christopher A. Langston, PhD, is the Program Director of the John A. Hartford Foundation, and is responsible for the Foundation’s grantmaking in support of its mission to improve the health of older Americans.
The organization served first as the home of the Geriatric Social Work Initiative (GSWI), then as the coordinating center for the National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence (NHCGNE) , and most recently, as the basecamp of the Hartford Change AGEnts Initiative.
So the GSA annual meeting, being held this week in Washington, DC, is a tremendous opportunity to connect with long-standing friends and meet new ones in the field of aging, as well as to check in on long-ago grants and plan new ones.
Last week, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a large and well-designed study of a post-hospital readmission reduction program called the “virtual ward,” which grew up in the UK and was tested by our cousins to the north in Toronto.
From left: Rebecca Brune, VP of Strategic Planning and Growth, Methodist Healthcare Ministries of San Antonio; Regina Bonnevie, MD, Medical Director, Peninsula Community Health Services in Port Orchard, WA; Peggy Cary, Senior VP of Finance & Internal Audit, Methodist Healthcare Ministries; and Diane Powers, Associate Director, Division of Integrated Care and Public Health, University of Washington AIMS Center, Seattle WA, talk following presentations at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC.
Last week, the Social Innovation Fund of the Corporation for National and Community Service celebrated its 5th Birthday. There was cake.
More importantly, there was a celebration of the good that philanthropy can do to address the pressing problems facing the country. The goal of the Social Innovation Fund is to bring federal and private money together to scale up the best, evidence-based innovations to address problems of education, poverty, and health.
Ever since I began working as a program officer at the John A. Hartford Foundation, I’ve tried to do my best to put myself in the shoes of the health professionals with whom we’ve worked and whose education and training historically has been one of our main concerns.
I’ve often found memoirs and other lightly fictionalized accounts to be the best way to get into the culture and daily experience of these health professionals. I’ve read Samuel Shem’s The House of God, countless memoirs of nurses and physicians, and even a very affecting memoir of a nurse’s aide in a nursing home.
One of the tricks of such reading is that we experience what our imagination and the author’s words together conjure in a special state of willing suspension of disbelief. Psychological research suggests that this process of imagination and purposeful lowering of critical skepticism is, in fact, what makes fiction so persuasive and engenders the feeling that novelists understand a truth about human character that other ways of knowing can’t match.
Coincidentally, I was moved to learn that a family friend, my “Aunt Betsy,” has been in an institution for going on 10 years, exceeding almost every expectation for longevity in advanced dementia.
The Times writer, Katie Thomas, observes that much of the data that drives this public reporting system, Nursing Home Compare, of “hotel-like,” 1- to 5-star ratings comes from institutional self-report and seems susceptible to gaming—including staffing up for the critical two weeks that are the basis of reporting for the year’s rating, and then letting the staff go immediately afterward. Sort of the way that television shows pump up their ratings with guest stars during sweeps week and then fall back to meh afterwards.
From left, featured experts Peggy O’Kane, Robert Berenson, and Caroline Blaum listen intently.
Like so many stakeholders in health care, we at the John A. Hartford Foundation have many of our hopes pinned on enhanced primary care as a way of improving health outcomes, particularly for older Americans who face multiple chronic conditions.
Primary care providers will need more skills, more teammates, community partners, and, of course, more money, to live up to these hopes. But we believe that better primary care can prevent some of the acute and expensive events such as hospitalizations that they experience, and thereby also lower total costs of health care.
July is an important month in history, with Bastille Day, on July 14, coming just 10 days after our own 4th of July. So what better time to consider issues of justice and equality?
There are lots of different ways to interpret equality: equality of outcomes, equality of opportunity, or perhaps—as an even more complex relative equality—matching of resources to individuals’ needs.
In the context of improving health care delivery to older adults, there are several important examples of these principles of equality in what is called “risk adjustment.” And I find myself with very different reactions to the different kinds.
Like a lot of new concepts, population health seems to be on everyone’s lips and there seems to be a lot of excitement to “do” population health. It sure sounds good and yet I am entirely unclear about the specifics and I’m pretty sure that everyone is feeling a different part of the elephant.
Unfortunately, a recent paper published on BMJ Open suggests that these divergent views are common.
We can all understand the goals of the triple aim: better care—higher quality health care with fewer defects; better health—a related but independent goal that the population at large is actually healthier; and lower cost, at least on a per capita basis—reducing total costs of care.
The grants totaling $2.13 million will support an additional 44 Health and Aging Policy Fellows (HAPF) over the next three years and help co-support a new Institute of Medicine (IOM) study on family caregiving of older adults. Both projects also offer great opportunities for our new Hartford Change AGEnts to bring their talents, expertise, and skills to bear on important issues related to creating policy and practice change that improves the health of older Americans.