Champions of Change Blog
- Posted byon September 17, 2013 at 3:19 PM EST
Last week, the White House honored eight Champions of Change, who are leading extraordinary initiatives in their communities to promote healthier lifestyles through Prevention and Public Health. These leaders are helping communities focus on healthy living by expanding preventative screenings, reducing health disparities, and promoting valuable ideas like healthy eating and exercise. They are reducing the cost of healthcare for Americans by helping them live healthier and happier lives.
These public health leaders have made healthcare a priority. Elmer Huerta realized he needed to do more on health education after treating patients for preventable diseases that could be detected early on. Janine Janosky and her colleagues focused their efforts on tackling chronic diseases like diabetes through an integrated health and wellness model. (Read more about the Champions and their work in their blogs)
Providing Americans with access to quality and affordable health coverage has been a priority for the President. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act, called for the creation of the National Prevention Strategy to fund public health initiatives, including ones led by some of these Champions, moving our nation’s focus from sickness and disease to wellness and prevention. Secretary Sebelius points out in her blog that the Affordable Care Act ensures that every American has the opportunity to be healthy by investing in public health – something that affects and connects us all.
However, those who work in public health know that making healthcare available is not enough – just as setting up screening facilities, accessible clinics, bike racks and surveillance programs is not enough. What makes these effective, is health education. A community must understand the options available to them and how these options relate to their personal health and what they can afford.
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- Posted byon September 13, 2013 at 11:05 AM EST
Ed. Note: This blog post was originally published by HHS.
With the leadership of our partners in prevention and public health and with implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration is helping to ensure every American has the opportunity to be healthy because we know that the nation’s public health affects and connects us all.
Yesterday, the White House highlighted the importance of prevention and public health, recognizing local leaders, also known as Champions of Change, from across the country. Eight Champions of Change shared their incredible work, which in many cases are supported through the Prevention and Public Health (PPHF), an important component of the Affordable Care Act. These eight Champions were selected from over 900 nominations, higher than any other Champions event and a testament to the important work in prevention and public health happening across the country. They talked about how, through encouraging preventive screenings, reducing health disparities, promoting physical activity and healthy eating, and fighting health care acquired infections, public health and prevention efforts are building healthier communities for all Americans.
I congratulate these eight Champions and celebrate the work of all our partners in prevention and public health across the country:
Janine E. Janosky, Vice President for the Center for Community Health Improvement
Erica Washington, Healthcare-Associated Infections Coordinator
New Orleans, LA
Andrea Hays, Director of the move∙ment Initiative & Upgrade Campaign
Marion Kainer, MD MPH, Physician and Epidemiologist
Natalie Pawlenko, Director, Office of Local Public Health, NJ Department of Health
Myriam Escobar, Community Outreach Worker at Moffitt Cancer Center
Ira Combs, Community Liaison Nurse Coordinator at University of Nebraska Medical Center
Elmer Huerta, Director of the Cancer Preventorium at MedStar Washington Hospital Center
President Obama and the entire Obama Administration have made prevention and public health a top priority because of the lasting effects they have on the health of Americans.
That is why the Affordable Care Act provides unprecedented resources through the Prevention and Public Health Fund to support community-based strategies to prevent chronic diseases, and to improve public health. The Affordable Care Act also created the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council, which provides federal leadership to engage states, communities, and private partners in creating a healthier America through the recommendations of the National Prevention Strategy – a blueprint for ensuring Americans are healthy at every stage of life. The Prevention and Public Health Fund is supporting projects that help our health care system shift from a focus on sickness and disease to one based on wellness and prevention.
Also at the event, some important news about the 2012 TIPS from Former Smokers campaign, work made possible by the Prevention and Public Health Fund, was announced. As a result of our first federally supported national tobacco education campaign, more than 100,000 people have quit smoking long-term. This doubled even our most ambitious goals for the campaign—a three-month ad campaign that will make a lifetime of difference for these families.
And our efforts in public health to support healthy communities are only strengthened by better opportunities for coverage for more Americans. For example, we now have the opportunity to connect our public health messaging on tobacco use prevention with the coverage of tobacco screening and cessation services through the new preventive benefits in the Affordable Care Act. Now, we can not only drive traffic to quitlines, but also know that those ready to quit have access to free cessation services in new health plans. The same is true for many of our diabetes, cancer and other key prevention and public health education initiatives.
In addition to the celebration, on Monday, we hosted national, state and local individuals to engage in a conversation about the role of public health in the future as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act continues and the Health Insurance Marketplaces go live on October 1, more states decide to expand Medicaid and the health care landscape continues to evolve. In both discussions, it was clear that in order to achieve our goals of improving the nation’s health, our greatest resources are our public health and prevention leaders. Improving the health of Americans requires thousands of dedicated workers who work selflessly and tirelessly in small and large communities across our nation. With a collective spirit, these local agents of change take innovative approaches and solutions to address local health issues—work that we know makes a difference.
Together, public health efforts and greater insurance coverage will help us accelerate efforts to improve nation’s health.
And the opportunities to improve the nation’s health will only get better with the new Health Insurance Marketplace. Starting October 1, new Marketplaces are opening in every state which will offer quality health insurance at an affordable price. You can learn more about your new options at HealthCare.gov.
- Janine E. Janosky, Vice President for the Center for Community Health Improvement
- Posted byon September 9, 2013 at 1:40 PM EST
Ira Combs is being honored as a Champion of Change for helping Americans live healthier lives, reduce disease and contribute to lowering health care costs by focusing communities on public health and prevention.
It seems that everywhere I go, when I tell people that I work in Omaha, Nebraska, their initial reaction is: “I didn’t know there were any black people in Nebraska.” This response is indicative of why it feels so good to be selected as a Public Health Champion for Change: we need people who believe in active and audacious community and public health work wherever it is needed.
I have been a community nurse for more than two decades and currently serve as Community Liaison Nurse Coordinator at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
I also am the founding director of North Omaha Area Health (NOAH), an agency that addresses the needs of the underserved in North Omaha. With a handful of dedicated community volunteers and grassroots programs, we have worked hard to meet the public health needs of our community.
My work has an emphasis on inspiring young African-Americans to become involved in public health. This includes the creation of a youth mentoring program called “CPR-N-Da-Hood,” which teaches young people CPR, then allows them to teach others through a peer education component I also created Youth Expressions of Health (YEOH), a program that has reached hundreds of young people in the past 12 years. 10 years ago, we also started a Youth Summer Internship Employment Program that has assisted more than 45 minority and underserved young people prepare for and start college with a focus on entering a health care field.
I am also the founding publisher and editor of the NOAH health newsletter, started 15 years ago, which provides health information and educational services to the underserved in Omaha. NOAH sponsors and maintains websites and social media networks that provide information about healthy living and health screening clinics. We also created a local show revolving around a character called Dr. Jesse and his friend, Prevention Man -- both aimed at teaching healthy practices and tips to children and teens.
The quote from the Bible, “For everyone to whom much is given, from them much will be required” is how I live my life and apply my skill set, helping those who need help the most. In that same vein I tell youth and families alike, when you have information, a skill, a talent it’s incumbent upon you to share it with the community because many times, unless we help those in our community the help may never come.
Ira Combs, serves as Community Liaison Nurse Coordinator at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and is the founding director of North Omaha Area Health (NOAH), an agency that addresses the needs of the underserved in Omaha, Nebraska.
- Posted byon September 9, 2013 at 1:34 PM EST
Myriam Escobar is being honored as a Champion of Change for helping Americans live healthier lives, reduce disease and contribute to lowering health care costs by focusing communities on public health and prevention.
I am a Community Outreach Worker at Moffitt Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center based in Florida.
I enjoy being in the community and hearing firsthand the dreams, hopes and needs of the people I work with. I enjoy sharing with others -- and learning from them -- the simple things in life. When helping someone, it is not necessary to make large gestures. It’s the small details, like a friendly hand in the right moment that can change someone’s life forever. We just need to be aware by taking advantage of the resources and tools that life offers us, and to utilize them at the appropriate moment. For this reason, I love my job. Every day is an opportunity to help someone.
I was born in Colombia and immigrated to this grand country with my husband and son where we learned that dreams can become a reality with effort, dedication, and hard work. I can say that we are the perfect example of what makes this a great country; the multicultural contributions each one of us brings to this country adds to its success.
In 2008 a very painful event occurred in our family. My sister-in-law lost her battle against breast cancer at only 50 years old, leaving two teenage sons. That was a pivotal moment in my life. For reasons that only the Creator can explain, almost one month later I started working at Moffitt Cancer Center driving the mobile mammography bus that visited community clinics. Two years later, our Program Manager bestowed upon me and my co-worker a program we call, Yo me cuido, I Take Care of Myself to address the needs of the Latino community.
At that moment, I understood that this was the precise tool to change many lives, everyday women, the majority of them immigrants, with many dreams to accomplish. My job consists of motivating women who attend our workshop to get their mammograms, demonstrate the importance of breast self-exam awareness and follow them to make sure they have their yearly mammograms. We visit women in their churches, work sites, neighborhoods, support groups, apartment complexes, beauty salons, schools, and libraries. Where there is a group of women, our program is there.
Yo me cuido teaches Hispanic women how to take care of their health through early detection screenings and healthy lifestyles, focusing on the prevention of breast cancer.
We emphasize the importance that they have within our society, showing them how important it is that their healthy behaviors will be seen by their children and their entire families.
I think it is important that community work transcends boundaries and working with women is the perfect opportunity. I am convinced that as women we can change the world from the heart of our own homes.
Myriam Escobar is a Community Outreach Worker at Moffitt Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, where she runs a program in the Tampa Bay area in Florida, called Yo me cuido (I take care of myself). The program teaches Hispanic women to take care of themselves through early detection and by living a healthy lifestyle with an emphasis on breast cancer prevention.
- Posted byon September 9, 2013 at 1:23 PM EST
Natalie Pawlenko is being honored as a Champion of Change for helping Americans live healthier lives, reduce disease and contribute to lowering health care costs by focusing communities on public health and prevention.
Sometime in my early teens, I had an epiphany: all our actions – even those we think to be most private - contribute to the life around us. And that we have a choice to either contribute positively to an upward spiral of human life, or to its antithesis. I chose the former.
The past thirty years of my life have been an ongoing search for ways in which to continuously contribute to the community. As a child of immigrants fleeing from WW II in Ukraine, there was frequently a sense of appreciation for the privilege of having been born in the United States, and a desire to “give back”. However, not until the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 did I focus on the health of the public, here and elsewhere in the world.
Public health is our invisible first line of defense. It is everywhere: from childhood immunizations, to clean drinking water, to food inspections and clean air. It is complex, like newborn screening and disease outbreak monitoring. It is also as simple as you and me washing our hands frequently and sneezing into our shirt-sleeves. It is pervasive, and as history has shown, it can be profoundly transformative.
After working in Canada for many years and witnessing the critical role played by public health in the containment of the SARS outbreak there, I returned to New Jersey and joined the New Jersey Department of Health, Office of Local Public Health. I have an abiding interest in public health informatics and have spearheaded the reform of the public health reporting system in New Jersey.
And over the course of the past nine years, I have gotten to know the many men and women, public health professionals whose daily work in their local communities keep our state healthy and safe. Their commitment inspires me greatly and in my various roles here at the State Health Department, I have endeavored to support them in doing their vital work more effectively and efficiently and with less unnecessary burden.
Whether it is championing quality improvement training or performance evaluation audits, process management or leadership coaching, accreditation preparation or informatics reform, my team and I continuously focus on being ‘ruthlessly practical’. And in the fast paced environment that is the East Coast, we ground our work in collaboration, mutual respect and an awareness that everything we do contributes to the health of the public we serve.
With funding from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, the state of New Jersey has reduced the lag time between testing and reporting influenza results to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2-to-3 weeks down to 2-to-3 days. With more timely information, local health departments are better prepared to address emerging health issues and prevent future issues.
Natalie Pawlenko is the Director of the Office of Local Public Health for the New Jersey Department of Health where she is leading a statewide effort to streamline and coordinate public health data collection and analysis to improve public health prevention and response.
- Posted byon September 9, 2013 at 12:44 PM EST
Marion Kainer is being honored as a Champion of Change for helping Americans live healthier lives, reduce disease and contribute to lowering health care costs by focusing communities on public health and prevention.
I am an infectious diseases physician and epidemiologist and work as director of the Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI) and Antimicrobial Resistance Program at the Tennessee Department of Health. I have an awesome team and I love my job: making health care safer in Tennessee and nationwide.
Earlier in my career in Australia, a terrible outbreak of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections among surgical patients changed my career forever. Never again did I want to feel as powerless in an outbreak as I did during that experience. I was no longer satisfied with attempting to treat infections; I wanted to prevent them.
Last year, a fungal meningitis outbreak across the country devastated patients, their loved ones, and healthcare providers. Tennessee was right at the center and dealing with it required every tool in my toolbox as a clinician and epidemiologist.
More than 13,500 patients were injected with contaminated steroid injections from a compounding pharmacy. Nearly 750 patients developed meningitis and/or infections around the spine and 63 people have died. Many still struggle with complications. As horrendous as this outbreak has been, it could have been far worse without investments from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Affordable Care Act is helping public health departments prevent and fight infectious diseases by investing in tools like enhanced public health workforce training and improved information technology.
The six members of my HAI team, funded through the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity grants, not only quickly determined the cause of the outbreak, they also identified patients not yet ill but at the highest risk of getting sick. Lives were saved not only by halting the contaminated injections, but also by tracking down every affected patient and getting effective treatment to the sick without delay.
In Tennessee, 153 persons developed infections; 15 have died. Had we not acted as quickly as we did, and the use of contaminated medication gone unchecked by public health, we estimate that 368 additional Tennesseans would have been injected. An additional 99 would have developed serious infections and up to 69 more people may have died. Our success came from a massive team effort that required close collaboration among clinicians, clinics, hospitals, local and state health departments and federal agencies, as well as vital funding from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. This collaboration must continue in order to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again.
Dr. Kainer is an infectious diseases physician and epidemiologist. She is the director of the healthcare associated infections and antimicrobial resistance program at the Tennessee Department of Health and helped identify the source of the 2012 fungal infection outbreak.
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