Back in the nation’s capital (and back on my blog after a long hiatus). I attended the 2012 National Health Promotion Summit Here is a summary of my experiences…
On Monday, April 9, Ed and I took Amtrak to Washington, DC. After more than eight hours on the train, we embarked on an Alice-in-Wonderland search for the Capitol City Brewing Company. Two years ago, we stumbled upon this brewery in the National Postal Museum building—just outside of the Amtrak station. Alas, it is there no longer. Our train-weariness impaired our ability to take this all in. We finally settled for fish & chips and a Guinness at the Dubliner.
Thus fortified, we jumped on the Metro to head across town to check into the Omni Shoreham Hotel. This is a lovely, older hotel located in a neighborhood-y section of the city. I pinned up my poster “Hospital Collaboration with a Public Library” and we headed out to explore the Adams Morgan area. Attracted by the beer list, we stopped in at The Black Squirrel. We were pleased to see that the Red Sox game was on—turns out, the bartender was from Western Massachusetts! Small world of baseball and good beer.
In the morning, I headed down to the Summit and Ed headed off to the Newseum (and to find the errant Capitol City Brewing Company). At the Opening Presentation, Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health, welcomed the attendees, exclaiming that it was tremendous to have us here from all over the country to show our passion. He exhorted us to protect the gift of good health, pray for boredom and enjoy the miracle of a healthy day.
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took the stage for the Keynote Address, claiming the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. We all need that level of confidence! She spoke to the national goal of improving health as fundamental to opportunity. Prevention, she said, is not just the work of health agencies. I felt heartened by this, as my goals are to work with public libraries and other community organizations to disseminate reliable health information. Here are her priorities for a healthier, stronger, more prosperous America: http://www.hhs.gov/secretary/about/priorities/strat_initiatives.pdf
Next up: the Plenary Panel. Mayra Alvarez, Director of Public Health Policy, spoke about the importance of the Affordable Care Act. She bemoaned the profusion of misinformation. She stressed the tremendous value of not allowing insurance to impose lifetime limits and pre-existing conditions limits. She celebrated the mandate to conduct insurance rate reviews as a way to slow the rise in premium costs. She pointed to the fact that 2.5 million young people can pursue internships and volunteer opportunities while remaining on their parents’ insurance (not to mention, low-paying jobs with no health benefits… on a personal note, our family is benefiting from this.)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director for the American Public Health Association, followed up by stating that public health begins with health care coverage. My ears perked up when he moved on to encourage hospitals to develop community benefits programs that truly engage the community in a meaningful way. I aim to be a part of this.
Delaware’s Karyl Rattay caught my attention when she talked about the lack of Quadrant 2 work (with a nod towards us Seven Habits fans). I’m a believer in relationship-building. She encouraged us to tie multiple programs together and latch onto national momentum. Empowering individuals through diverse approaches, she said, will drive the needle toward improved health for all.
I must admit to scooting up to my room for my business cards during most of Howard Frumkin’s talk. I did make it back into the room to hear him tell us to put time into long-term investments rather than choose methods that seem easy, popular, and cool.
After the Plenary, I headed toward the Policy & Data session. I jotted down how the new HHS population survey standards allow for more flexibility— for example, not limiting to Hispanic or Latino, but measuring identification with country of origin or descent (Mexico, Puerto Rico…) For the first time, HHS will measure self-reported language proficiency. This adds more depth to our understanding of our population.
I noted how the Speak to Your Health! Community Survey, conducted by the Prevention Research Center of Michigan (PRC/MI), are surveys of the community by the community— and the data is used to support community grant proposals.
Fenway Institute addressed data collection on sexual orientation in a clinical setting. The Fenway Institute encourages the inclusion of sexual orientation in the electronic health record.
At my lunch table, Maaden Eshete encouraged me to check out the library on the Office of Minority Health webpage. During lunch, Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer, announced the winners of the Leading Health Indicators App Challenge. Community Commons is the big winner. Todd Park is my winner for the most enthusiastic presenter. If you have a bit of time, check out this presentation.
After lunch, I headed up to my room again. I needed a mindfulness meditation break to improve my afternoon outcomes (otherwise known as a little nap…)
Revived, I made my way to the afternoon session on How Community Health Workers are Making a Difference in Public Health. First up, community health workers (CHWs) in Boston are delivering care by Family Van. CHWs are liaisons between the community and the health care system. 50% visitors to Family Van are men. Fantastic! Clearly, this model of health care appeals to them. Family Van keeps people out of the ED by providing care in their neighborhoods.
Second, ECARE-DIABETES looks at re-designing primary care in East Carolina. Adding motivational interviews to the primary care visit leads to significant differences in the management of diabetes.
Third, partnering to improve health outcomes for Cambodian and Latino families in Santa Ana, CA. Health education for community members and health care providers leads to greater awareness of health disparities and improved patient-provider interactions.
Fourth, CHW Initiative of NHLBI includes capacity building of CHWs to implement programs… ah, my attention is fading. Did I see sweet tea? I am not in Western Massachusetts anymore!
During breaks, I made my way to the Poster Presentations to speak about my collaboration with the Springfield City Library. Over the course of the day, I spoke with more than a dozen people. My business cards and copies of my poster flew off the board!
The last session of the day addressed Effective Solutions for Chronic Disease Management. Patient navigators in Lubbock,TX—referencing Paulo Freire; talking about promotoras. Chronic disease self-management in rural Idaho—barriers to health care include not wanting to be told what to do. Student-run clinic in Washington, DC—look to your universities for support in community work.
At the close of day, Ed and I compared notes poolside. Yes, it was warm enough in April to take a swim outdoors at the Omni Shoreham pool. Ed enjoyed his day, as I did mine. We headed out to Bardia’s New Orleans Café for dinner. We sat in the window seat and were thoroughly charmed by the owner. This sounds cliché, but it was like a visit to the French Quarter.
The following day, after refreshing my presentation with additional business cards and copies of my poster, Ed and I took the Metro to explore the Library of Congress. The building itself is phenomenal. Looking down upon the main reading room is breathtaking. We walked through several exhibits—the Swann Gallery of political cartoons; Sakura, cherry blossoms as symbols of friendship; the legacy of George and Ira Gershwin; exploring the early Americas (including some incredible maps from the sixteenth century); and Thomas Jefferson’s library collection.
Back to the hotel to gather our belongings and roll up my poster. We grabbed a delicious lunch at the Lebanese Taverna before getting on the Metro, catching our train at Union Station, and arriving in Springfield,MA around 10:00pm. A quick, but delightful trip.