Governor Deval Patrick today joined state health officials, municipal leaders, legislators, community members and medical providers to announce the launch of the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund (PWTF). Part of Chapter 224 health care cost containment legislation, this first-in-the-nation effort provides more than $40 million in grants to nine community-based partnerships over four years to help fight chronic illness and improve health outcomes while reducing health care costs. The Governor made the announcement Monday morning at Holyoke Health Center.
"In Massachusetts, we believe that health care is a public good and every resident deserves access to affordable, quality care," said Governor Deval Patrick. "These grants will help us reach that goal by funding the intervention strategies proven to work."
The Fund supports community-based partnerships in achieving measurable health goals through research-based interventions. The goals of the Fund are to reduce rates of the most prevalent and preventable health conditions, advance healthy behaviors, increase the adoption of workplace wellness or health management programs and address health disparities. Municipalities, healthcare systems, community organizations, businesses, regional planning organizations and schools are working together to launch community-specific programs to address issues including hypertension, smoking, falls prevention among older adults and pediatric asthma.
"Through the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund, we're able not only to implement evidence-based interventions in community and clinical settings, but also to use technological innovation to connect the two, improving the integration of care and expanding access to services," said Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz. "By working in these unique partnerships, we can keep residents healthy in a way that takes into account the specialized public health needs of each community."
A critical component of the program is to connect clinical and community settings through use of health information technology by sending electronic referrals to and from community resources. The e-Referral Program will allow participating community-based programs to use electronic health records (EHR) to connect directly with medical providers and report information about a patient's participation in particular programs. Used in both the clinical and community setting, the e-Referral Program will be used to evaluate the success of the PWTF including patient populations, services received and improved health outcomes. Ultimately, these health outcomes will be used to estimate a return on investment for particular intervention within the PWTF, as well as the PWTF program as a whole.
Monday's event included a demonstration of the state's e-Referral pilot, demonstrating the in-browser application to simulate the YMCA as an example community based organization managing a referral and providing feedback to a clinician on a sample case.
The PWTF will achieve specified outcomes by incorporating community health workers into care teams as specialists in outreach, education, direct services, and advocacy for some of the state's most vulnerable residents. As an emerging trend in health care, community health workers are a proven, cost effective way to reach disengaged populations and support linking them to clinical providers. Through its work with the grant recipients, DPH will promote the use of community health workers as an useful tool to improve patient engagement in these intervention strategies.
"Connecting healthcare systems to community resources will give people more tools to prevent and manage chronic health conditions where they live, work, and play," said DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett. "Prevention and wellness are tremendously effective in helping people live healthier lives in their communities."
Initial funding of $250,000 for up to 10 months will be distributed to partnerships to refine their proposals including their service area, health conditions/interventions and/or population(s) of focus, and capacity building. Implementation funding will be provided when the grantees meet specified benchmarks. Each partnership will be provided with enhanced support and technical assistance from the Commonwealth to further shape this work and help them achieve meaningful return on investment.
"This grant will allow us to focus on the neighborhoods where our residents are most impacted by health inequities, and leverage our network of community health centers to provide better access and proactive care," said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "At the same time, we're looking ahead to establishing best practices that can be expanded to every neighborhood in the city of Boston."
"The City of Holyoke will benefit greatly from this funding, and I applaud and thank Governor Patrick and the Massachusetts DPH for recognizing the importance of community based partnerships in order to provide quality health care for our City's most vulnerable residents," said Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. "It truly takes the collaborative efforts of our whole community to make Holyoke a healthier place to live, and this funding will ensure that we are able to continue to provide innovative and life saving services to all of our residents."
"The Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund supports community-based prevention and wellness programs aimed at reducing the most costly and prevalent avoidable health conditions," said Senator Harriette L. Chandler, Assistant Majority Leader and Co-Chair of the Prevention for Health Caucus. "By focusing on prevention and certain quantifiable benchmarks, the Trust enables the Commonwealth to provide new ways to deliver and fund health care."
"Governor Patrick and Department of Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett are committed to improving health and wellness throughout the Commonwealth," said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. "They recognize the critical role that community-based partnerships can play in growing healthy behaviors and reducing the most widespread and preventable health conditions. I have no doubt that the work of the New Bedford-Fall River partnership, led by New Bedford Public Health Director, Dr. Brenda Weis, will lead to improved health outcomes and reduced health care costs in the region."
"Preventing behaviors that require expensive health care, like substance abuse and tobacco use, helps everyone--individuals, families, neighborhoods and our healthcare system" said Representative Antonio F.D. Cabral. "These state dollars for the New Bedford Health Department will help all of us by keeping costs down while improving public health."