All babies deserve to celebrate their first birthday. Yet, every week, three more families in Franklin County, Ohio (part of the greater Columbus area), lose a baby under the age of 1. Ohio has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the United States according to America's Health Rankings. Not only are too many babies dying before their first birthday, too many – 13 percent in Franklin County – are born too early. Disorders related to prematurity and low birth weights are the leading causes of infant deaths, and those same disorders can cause ongoing challenges for babies who survive.
This stark reality led the Greater Columbus Infant Mortality Task Force to develop a plan, named CelebrateOne, to reduce infant mortality by 40 percent and cut the racial health disparity gap in half by 2020. In 2016, United Health Foundation began supporting CelebrateOne with a $1.7 million grant over three years to train 72 community health workers (CHWs) for outreach to expectant and new mothers and their families in eight critically challenged neighborhoods. The targeted neighborhoods were identified through geographic analysis to be disproportionately affected by key social determinants of health, including poverty, food insecurity, poor housing and lack of access to quality health care. These neighborhoods comprise less than 10 percent of Franklin County births, but account for nearly one in four infant deaths.
CelebrateOne graduate Cissy Watkin and Orion.
Through CelebrateOne's "Community Connector Corps" program, the first 24 CHWs graduated in December 2016. CHWs complete 104 hours of classwork with the Ohio State University College of Nursing and participate in 130 practicum hours at a participating agency in one of the targeted neighborhoods. They then serve up to 1,000 internship hours in the communities over a nine-month period. Through the program, they become state-certified. The ultimate goal is for trained CHWs to educate up to 27,000 pregnant women or new mothers every year.
During 2016, CHWs screened upwards of 2,000 women, of whom more than 500 were pregnant, and educated more than 10,000 Columbus residents on sound prenatal care, well-baby care and infant safe-sleeping practices. They also connected people to community resources to help with homelessness, unemployment and financial difficulties. As the Infant Mortality Task Force's report points out, "In order to have healthy babies, we must also have healthy families and communities that set a foundation for opportunity, not only for this generation but also for future generations."
"Celebrating a baby's first birthday is always a meaningful milestone, and in our community it is an especially critical one," said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther. "Thanks to partners like United Health Foundation, CelebrateOne is reaching out and connecting more women with preventive, prenatal and well-baby care, which is essential to ending the infant mortality epidemic Columbus faces."
Partnering with organizations with a shared mission advances UnitedHealth Group, Optum and UnitedHealthcare's work to better understand and serve groups of individuals with unique challenges and distinctive health care needs. For example, throughout 2016, UnitedHealthcare, which serves Medicaid and other state health programs, was a statewide sponsor of Special Olympics of Texas (SOTX), providing funding, event staffing with employee volunteers and their families, and logistical support with a presence at more than 500 events during the year.
SOTX's mission is to change lives through the power of sports by empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all and fostering communities of understanding and respect.
For the SOTX Winter Games held in Austin, UnitedHealthcare employees and their families knitted and distributed scarves to each athlete. They also engaged with participants during free health and hearing screenings, shared nutrition and healthy lifestyle information with competitors and their families, and helped organize and direct sporting events for more than 2,500 athletes competing in a variety of events, including bowling, powerlifting and volleyball.
As a statewide sponsor of the Special Olympics of Texas in 2016, UnitedHealthcare provided funding, event staffing and employee volunteers for more than 500 events.
Austin Pittman, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community & State, said, "Our mission is to help people live healthier lives. Special Olympics seeks to improve the lives of their athletes. I can't think of a more aligned set of goals. Community involvement is central to what we do. Getting involved with a program like Special Olympics is absolutely core to our mission."
In February 2016, Blue Star Families and United Health Foundation announced a new initiative to train and support military caregivers. "There are many military caregivers who don't identify as caregivers when the person they care for is not in the hospital or has unseen injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, which can be isolating," said Callie Barr, Marine Corps spouse and caregiver. "We need to recognize these caregivers and help them feel supported and understood. This Blue Star Families initiative is a huge step in the right direction."
Blue Star Families is a national, nonprofit network of military families from all ranks and services, including guard and reserve, dedicated to supporting, connecting and empowering military families. The Blue Star Cares: Military Caregiver Online Interactive Program is an initiative that aims to increase caregiver knowledge, skills and confidence for those who are caring for wounded warriors, by enhancing their social support networks through a continuum of care, and improving caregiver quality of life through new online training and interactive resources. The training platform will use avatar technology to create computer-based simulations and care scenarios to help caregivers problem-solve and address real-life challenges to care.
Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO, Blue Star Families.
Funded by a $750,000 United Health Foundation partnership grant, the interactive program will be piloted and tested over the next three years with the goal of making the program and evidence-based toolkit available to military caregivers throughout the United States and around the world.
"There are about 5.5 million military caregivers in the United States, and the emotional and physical impact of caregiving can be extraordinary," said Noeleen Tillman, executive director, Blue Star Families. "Through the support of United Health Foundation, this new program will provide caregivers valuable resources and training to help improve their own quality of life and the care they are providing to our wounded warriors."
America's Health Rankings® provides an annual assessment of the nation's health on a state-by-state basis by analyzing a comprehensive set of behaviors, community and environmental conditions, policies, clinical care and outcomes data. As part of a new and expanded series of reports, America's Health Rankings published reports in 2016 focused on important markers of our nation's health, including impacts of unhealthy living, the importance of preventive care and the health of specific population groups.
America's Health Rankings Health of Those Who Have Served Report, prepared in partnership with Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), reflects United Health Foundation's commitment to offering data-driven insights that can stimulate dialogue and action that continues to advance the health of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. America's Health Rankings collaborated with an advisory steering group of leading military, veterans and public health organizations to develop a holistic study compared with the health of civilians to establish a baseline portrait of the health of those who have served.
Among its most important findings, the report highlights that those who have served are more likely than civilians to report that their health is very good or excellent. However, despite reporting better overall health, those who have served face distinct health challenges, including higher rates of coronary heart disease, heart attack and cancer compared to their civilian peers. The report also finds good news for service members when it comes to physical inactivity. Those who have served are less likely to be physically inactive than civilians, a pattern that cuts across all age groups from 18- to 39-year-olds to those more than 80 years of age.
The health of those who have served is an important area of focus for policymakers, health officials and community leaders. Through this report, United Health Foundation and MOAA aim to share important insights related to the health of this population — including their perceptions of personal health, their experiences with the health care system, and their health outcomes — and encourage a more active and informed dialogue on how this group of Americans can live healthier lives and be better served by the health care system.
To explore America's Health Rankings reports, visit www.americashealthrankings.org.