Hofstra University and other members of the Advocates for Community Health (ACH) will celebrate the launch of a new partnership with the Health Leads organization at a ceremony with local health care leaders this Thursday, May 23. The partnership enables health care providers to prescribe basic resources like food and heat just as they do medication, and signals an exciting shift in the future direction of healthcare.
ACH, a collaboration between the Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC)/NuHealth, Project DOCC–Delivery of Chronic Care, and the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) at Hofstra University, is dedicated to improving the health of underserved Long Island families, particularly those whose children have developmental disabilities and serious chronic conditions. Founded in 1996, Health Leads works with health care organizations and universities to connect patients with basic resources, and currently has programs in 15 hospitals and clinics.
“We look forward to working with Health Leads, Hofstra and Project DOCC to ensure that patients’ basic resource needs are integrated into health care delivery. This partnership will enable us to focus on improving patient health and reducing costs, all while better serving our vulnerable populations who face critical challenges affecting their health and wellbeing,” said Arthur A. Gianelli, president and CEO of the NuHealth System, which manages NUMC.
The Health Leads desk at NUMC is the first program of its kind to address the challenges facing families of children with special needs, and the first time the program is serving a suburban area.
Clinical staff often does not have time or training to help patients with non-medical needs, although meeting those needs can keep patients and families from getting sick and help them stay healthy. Lack of adequate housing or food can exacerbate health problems; lack of transportation prevents patients from keeping appointments; lack of adult literacy and English language programs keep parents from understanding health information and medical instructions; and, most important for children with special needs, lack of early intervention programs prevent children from realizing their full educational potential.
“This initiative represents the future of healthcare, not just in New York but across America,” said Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., commissioner of the New York State Department of Health. “Every hospital and clinic should have a solution for dealing with non-medical needs that affect whether patients can get and stay healthy — whether it is a family that needs transportation to get to their appointments, or needs utilities assistance to run their prescribed medical equipment at home.”
Low-income families have long found Long Island to be a daunting region in which to find employment that pays a living wage, affordable housing and reliable childcare. Many suburban families are often unable to work their way out of poverty, and many lack the skills to advocate for their family’s health needs. For families of children with special health care needs, the challenges are compounded.
“For parents of children with special health care needs, this is a long-awaited and hoped for step toward recognizing the additional challenges our families experience as we strive toward giving our children better continuity of care and quality of life,” said Maggie Hoffman, President of Project DOCC.
After physicians or other health care providers prescribe a basic resource, highly trained Health Leads advocates from Hofstra University “fill” the prescriptions and earn college credit for their service. Advocates work with patients to connect them with resources in the community such as food banks, utility assistance, legal assistance, childcare and early intervention programs for children. The Hofstra advocates also provide training to parents so they can more effectively champion their children’s needs.
“We are enormously proud to be part of this initiative,” said Dr. Herman A. Berliner, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Hofstra University. “Not only are we helping to serve the needs of this vulnerable population, but we are also providing valuable experiential learning to our student participants.”
Started in Boston in 1996, Health Leads has partnerships in 17 hospitals and clinics in six cities, including four in New York City. Health Leads’ vision is to transform the health care system so that addressing all patients’ basic resource becomes a standard part of quality care.
“We are so pleased to be working with partners who are leading the way in Nassau County. By recognizing that factors outside the doctor’s office play a critical role in achieving good health, we can help families in Long Island get and stay healthy,” said Carmita Padilla, Executive Director of Health Leads New York.