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Achieving health equity
By Larry Warner / June 4, 2018 /   Loading Disqus...

The Rhode Island Foundation is committed to improving the health, wellness, and quality of life for all Rhode Islanders. Equity – the principle that everyone has the opportunity to achieve optimal outcomes – requires that we address the social, economic, and environmental determinants of health. These determinants, the conditions in which we live, learn, work, and play, account for roughly 75% of what impacts our health. Health care contributes less than 25% to what determines our health. 

Achieving health equity requires that we are mindful of disparities (differences between groups) and inequalities (avoidable disparities, resulting from marginalization or discrimination) and that we prioritize groups which face poorer health outcomes due to inequalities. Toward this goal, the Foundation recently solicited proposals through our Fund for a Healthy Rhode Island to support place-based and cross-sector partnerships to address social determinants of health which aim to reduce health disparities and inequalities. We look forward to announcing the finalists of this multi-year grant program later this year. 

The current focus of the Fund for a Healthy Rhode Island complements the Foundation’s Healthy Lives strategic initiative to promote cross sector collaboration to address social determinants of health. One of the priority areas of our RIGHA Foundation Fund further supports our work in health equity. 

An example of a current health equity initiative supported by the Foundation is the The Greatest Eight, led by South County Health in partnership with the University of Rhode Island and Brown University Continuing Medical Education Office. The goal of this project is to promote positive mental health outcomes by working with clinicians, parents, and other caregivers of children to provide the education and resources to develop key behavioral competencies in children by age eight. With extensive input from parents/caregivers relative to their needs in helping children to develop these competencies, the project in its first year focused on providing tools for skill development in three areas: emotion regulation, communications, and diversity and respect. As the project continues, tools are being developed to help parents/caregivers address additional skills. 

Another initiative supported by the Foundation is the Providence Transitions Clinic, a collaborative program of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at Miriam Hospital, the RI Hospital Center for Primary Care, and the Lifespan Community Health Insitute. The goal of the Transitions Clinic is to improve the health of formerly incarcerated individuals who have chronic illnesses through the combined efforts of community health workers (CHWs) with a history of previous incarceration and clinical staff who have experience working within prisons and are passionate about serving formerly incarcerated populations. The CHWs are trained to connect patients with the non-clinical resources and services needed to promote, improve, and maintain their health. Through the clinical services provided at the RI Hospital Center for Primary Care in South Providence, and the education and services of CHWs meeting with individuals in the community, the health needs of this population are being met.  

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The Rhode Island Foundation has supported and continues to support a broad range of efforts to improve health. Through the generosity of our donors and participation of our staff in state and community-led initiatives, the Foundation aims to provide financial support, provide and convene content experts, and support a thoughtful and inclusive process to achieve system changes needed to improve the health of Rhode Islanders. Sometimes, we are able to see rapid change in the community, but more often than not, it takes months or years to see the net benefit of an intervention. We attempt to measure what can be measured, share what we learn, and observe both short and longer-term trends. We have had the privilege of supporting the Rhode Island community for the past one hundred and two years, and look forward to contributing to the health and well-being of all Rhode Islanders in the years to come. 

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