The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) approved $1.08M in new grants including initiatives to advance the understanding of women’s cardiovascular health in pregnancy and improve outcomes; establish a Healthy Aging program within the Aging Institute of UPMC Senior Services and the University of Pittsburgh; develop and implement behavioral health training for physician assistant and nursing programs at Carlow University; hold a national teen mental health policy and action summit in partnership with AcademyHealth; and hold a national maternity care policy and action summit in partnership with the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation.
A Partnership to Improve Cardiovascular Health in Pregnancy
JHF approved a three-year, $600,000 grant to advance the understanding of women’s cardiovascular health in pregnancy, and to ultimately improve the quality of care provided and outcomes related to cardiovascular health for pregnant women. Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of maternal mortality and morbidity. The Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) will collaborate with RAND through the grant.
The initiative will build on MWRI’s research expertise in maternal mortality, and aim to develop a series of proposals to the National Institutes of Health and other funders related to women’s cardiovascular health during and after pregnancy. The initiative will focus on research that can be translated into best practices for cardiovascular health care for pregnant women, and on addressing gaps in care.
MWRI will work in partnership with JHF’s newest supporting organization, the Women’s Health Activist Movement (WHAMglobal). WHAMglobal is committed to identifying the root causes of maternal and infant mortality, and supporting mothers and families through the entirety of their care. WHAMglobal aims to accomplish those goals by studying high-quality maternal care models from around the world, championing policy and practice reforms, and forming a strong network of women’s health advocates.
The new research initiative furthers JHF’s more than 25-year commitment to improving the well-being of women, including through the Foundation’s prior Working Hearts® initiative that built a multisector coalition to boost women’s heart health.
The new initiative will also build upon lessons learned from the MWRI Summit, which will take place on October 9-10. The MWRI Summit will bring together leading researchers, health practitioners, and policy makers to review known women’s health risk factors and social determinants, and identify future interventions and research directions. JHF is among the funders supporting the MWRI Summit.
Prior to the summit, WHAMglobal will host a Maternal Health Leaders Symposium on October 8. The Maternal Health Leaders Symposium will gather national and international experts to examine cutting-edge research about the causes and conditions related to maternal and infant mortality, and shape action strategies.
“We simply could not ignore the shocking statistics about the tragedy of a newborn without a mother,” says Debra L. Caplan, MPA, chair of the WHAMglobal board of directors and vice chair of the JHF board. “The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is three times higher than in any other comparable nation, and it’s rising at a time when other countries are lowering their rates. We in the U.S. are a disturbing outlier, and it’s time to address this crisis with the urgency that it requires.”
Modifying the Aging Trajectory: The Healthy Aging Program
JHF approved a two-year, $300,000 grant to establish a Healthy Aging Program within the Aging Institute of UPMC Senior Services and the University of Pittsburgh. The program aims to modify the aging trajectory for seniors, identifying the key characteristics of successful and unsuccessful aging and developing new interventions that enhance quality of life for older adults.
Through the Healthy Aging Program, the Aging Institute will conduct novel research and leverage technology to help seniors slow the progression of disability and disease. The Healthy Aging program will use electronic health records, biological markers, personal monitoring devices, self-assessments, and other measures to stratify health risks for seniors and develop personalized interventions that promote successful aging. These include dietary and pharmaceutical modifications, physical activity, and preventive therapeutics, among other interventions.
“JHF has a strong conviction that the senior years need not be a period defined by a rapid decline in heath and quality of life,” Dr. Feinstein says. “There are opportunities for early intervention and improvement. The Aging Institute, led by Director Dr. Toren Finkel and Clinical Director Dr. Anne Newman, is on the vanguard of translational research that helps seniors live longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.”
Training Physician Assistants and Nurses Beyond the Medical Model
JHF approved a one-year, $100,000 grant to Carlow University to develop and implement behavioral health training for its physician assistant and nursing programs. Using a blend of classroom education, simulated interviews with patients, and case studies, the training will prepare Carlow University students to effectively treat mental health and substance use challenges while operating as part of an expanded healthcare team. The grant will help to create a sustainable training model that addresses a workforce shortage, strengthening the expertise of more front-line healthcare workers who serve as the gate-keepers for getting mental health care to teens, young adults, and adults.
As part of the grant, the Family Nurse Practitioner and undergraduate faculty at Carlow University will also conduct seminars and workshops for students that focus on overall wellness, healthy relationships, and addressing feelings of depression and isolation.
Addressing the Teen Mental Health Crisis: A National Policy and Action Summit
JHF approved a one-year, $55,000 grant to AcademyHealth to hold a 2019 summit in Washington, DC to develop a national policy and advocacy strategy that creates a robust safety net for teens and families experiencing a mental health crisis. The summit will gather leading legislators, behavioral health professionals, insurers, researchers, and community advocates to identify best practices in diagnosis and treatment, and to identify policy levers that address payment, scope of practice, and overall workforce barriers.
The national policy and advocacy summit advances JHF’s Adolescent Behavioral Health Initiative, which was launched in 2016 to improve access to and accountability for effective behavioral health services for teens who are experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis. Through the initiative, JHF has engaged state and county leaders, mental health and substance use providers, social service representatives, family and patient advocates, educators, health plan representatives, nonprofit leaders, and researchers.
“The state of teen mental health in the U.S. cannot be ignored—our young adults are taking to the streets crying out for help,” Dr. Feinstein says. “Compared to similar nations, U.S. teens have higher rates of depression, substance use, and anxiety. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among adolescents. Currently, we have an insufficient safety net for teens in families in crisis due to a workforce, payment, and practice constraints. This leads to long waiting lists for services, teens in danger to themselves and others who are denied care or lost to treatment, and ultimately unrealized potential. We want to create a policy and advocacy playbook that eliminates barriers to timely, effective, and accountable teen mental health care.”
Improving U.S. Maternity Care: A National Policy Summit
JHF approved a one-year, $25,000 grant to the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation (NEHI) to hold a national maternity care summit in Washington, DC in November of 2018. The multi-stakeholder summit aims to identify state and federal policy opportunities to improve maternal and infant care and outcomes; reduce racial and ethnic disparities in such care and outcomes; and increase access to high-quality, comprehensive, and cost-effective maternal and infant care through bundled payment approaches and other innovations in reimbursement and practice.
The NEHI summit will advance the key practice and policy recommendations that emerge from JHF and WHAMglobal’s October 8 Maternal Health Leaders Symposium. The summit will also advance the Foundation’s efforts to create a statewide Maternal Coalition and Action Network (MOMsCAN). MOMsCAN is a perinatal quality collaborative (PQC) that aims to build a statewide, multi-stakeholder coalition and use research, training, quality improvement, technical assistance, and policy/advocacy to lower maternal mortality rates in Pennsylvania and achieve excellent attachment and outcomes for mothers and babies.
In addition to providing new grants, JHF also renewed the following grants:
- A one-year, $50,000 grant to WESA, the local NPR affiliate, to provide independent coverage of healthcare issues of interest to the residents of southwestern Pennsylvania.
- A two-year, $30,000 grant to support the Human Services Integration Fund and a two-year, $30,000 grant to support the Public Health Improvement Fund. Both of these funds, operated through The Pittsburgh Foundation, are designed to seed innovation in the public sector.