Building Healthier Cities Where We Live and Work

April 10, 2017

Good health is more than just good health care, and the communities in which we live and work play a huge role in our everyday lives. For those who don't have access to healthy, nutritious foods or primary care services, living a healthy life can be a challenge. United Health Foundation (UHF) is committed to removing these barriers and to helping build healthier communities.

By partnering with local organizations to assess individual community needs, expand access to needed health care services, connect individuals and families to quality care and promote the health and well-being of vulnerable populations, progress is being made to build healthier communities where we live and work.

To build upon UnitedHealth Group's efforts in local communities and help support UHF's mission, new initiatives have been launched in three U.S. cities: Hartford, Connecticut; Houston, Texas; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. UHF partnered with organizations in each city to use innovative programs that target specific community needs based on local health challenges.

In Hartford, Connecticut, one of the projects is focused on drug abuse prevention and education for parents, teens and young adults. According to America's Health Rankings, drug-related deaths have increased by 44 percent in Connecticut, and the 2015 Connecticut Youth Risks Behavior survey revealed that Hispanic children have higher substance abuse rates. This spike in drug-related deaths is a major source of concern for policymakers and community organizations, especially in Hartford.  To tackle this issue head on, UHF is teaming up with The Governor's Partnership for Prevention to focus on high-risk Hispanic teens and their parents through a multi-faceted public awareness campaign highlighting the harms associated with adult and youth substance abuse.

Helping kids access integrated clinical and behavioral health services is the focus of another UHF effort in Hartford.  A partnership with the Village for Families and Children will create an integrated approach to behavioral health and primary care services at pediatric practices in East Hartford and West Hartford. The teams of primary care doctors, psychologists and care coordinators will support positive behavioral choices by addressing the health-related social needs of families, offering interventions and positive education, resources and support focused on prevention. This type of integrated system will result in improved health outcomes for children and a better quality of care.

In Houston, Texas, the need for education, resources and access to healthy foods is supported by another statistic from America's Health Rankings: Texas ranks 40th in the nation in obesity, and more than 11 percent of the population has diabetes.  In response to this issue, UHF has partnered with Recipe for Success to help the organization reach its goal to improve access to fresh, healthy food in underserved communities through the Hope Farmer program. The initiative will train veteran entrepreneurs to manage a 7-acre plot of land with the aim of generating 106,000 pounds of produce annually for families through on-site and citywide markets. And, because the key to a healthy lifestyle isn't only based on the food we eat, UHF is working with the University of Houston to improve healthy habits by implementing an obesity prevention and intervention program in two low-income neighborhoods.  The program goal is to reach more than 5,000 residents and 3,000 families over the next three years.

Equipping primary care providers with increased behavioral health knowledge and reducing a shortage of nurses is a priority in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. By partnering with the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) and all four Milwaukee hospital systems, UHF and MATC are working together to reduce the nursing shortage by doubling enrollment, increasing capacity to graduate more students, hiring new nursing program instructors, recruiting low-income students and assisting with placement services post-graduation. Providing needed resources to expand MATC's capacity to graduate additional students will further strengthen the anticipated demand for registered nurses in Wisconsin and help develop the 21st century health workforce.

To guarantee primary care providers in Milwaukee are equipped to help new and expectant mothers experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety, a UHF partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) will provide immediate, real-time peer-to-peer teleconsultation services to more than 350 primary care providers across Milwaukee through the Periscope Project (PERInatal Specialty COnsult Psychiatry Extension). By addressing a lack of perinatal psychiatric care providers, MCW will increase the reach and efficiency of specialized health providers, in turn building the capacity of primary care providers to effectively manage and coordinate care for their perinatal patients.

Through unique, innovative local partnerships in Hartford, Houston and Milwaukee, UHF is driving positive change to help build healthier communities where we live and work.