URMC, Monroe County Awarded $3.6M to Help Create a Healthier Community

Sep. 29, 2011

The University of Rochester Medical Center, the Monroe County Department of Public Health and numerous community partners have beenawarded a five-year, $3.6 million Community Transformation Grant by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The funding will be used to develop HEART (Health Engagement and Action for Rochester’s Transformation), a comprehensive initiative to improve the health of Monroe County residents by creating a community environment that supports healthy behaviors, thus preventing chronic disease and reducing health care costs.

The Rochester site is one of only 15 communities nationwide to receive funding. An additional 20 states were also funded to implement evidence-based health policy changes.

Created by the Affordable Care Act, the Community Transformation Grants program supports communities and states in tackling the root causes of poor health, tobacco use, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and management of chronic disease, so that Americans can lead healthier, more productive lives. HEART will combine strategies to address the entire county, with targeted initiatives in a particularly impoverished area, the city’s Crescent. HEART also will focus on the unusually large deaf population in Monroe County, seeking to develop models inclusive of special needs populations.

HEART will be led by a leadership team that includes critical stakeholders in the community, chaired by Monroe County Department of Public Health Director Andrew S. Doniger, M.D., M.P.H. It will be supported by an expert team chaired by URMC’s Thomas Pearson, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., an international expert in heart disease prevention and director of the National Center for Deaf Health Research. The leadership team includes representation of five community coalitions addressing HEART target strategies and the African American and Latino Health Coalitions.

“This funding will give a tremendous boost to our community’s hard work to reduce the terrible toll of chronic diseases through policy and environmental change,” said Nancy M. Bennett, M.D., M.S., project director of HEART and director of the URMC Center for Community Health. “It will also help us to focus on at-risk, high-need populations.”

The CCH will provide infrastructure for HEART and will oversee many of the strategies, while others will be led by the Department of Public Health and five partnering community organizations: Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, Foodlink, YMCA of Greater Rochester, the Rochester City School District and the City of Rochester.

“Changing health behavior – while not easy – is doable as evidenced by the tens of millions of Americans who have quit smoking,” Doniger said. “By achieving similar success with increasing physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling blood pressure, we can impact the chronic diseases causing the majority of our health burden, namely heart disease, cancer and diabetes.”

“Most people know the right things to do to improve their health, but too many of us fail to do so. By implementing specific policy changes, we can make the healthy choice the default choice. Doing so will improve health and save money – a win-win,” Doniger added.

HEART will address tobacco use, active living, healthy eating and clinical preventive services, with interventions in four key venues: community, worksites, health care and schools. Community strategies include increasing access to healthy food in inner city communities, increasing access to the Diabetes Prevention Program, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design training, and increasing smoke-free places. In worksites, HEART will develop a Worksite Health Index and Recognition program, to help worksites implement evidence-based policy and environmental changes to improve the health of employees.Health care strategies include an innovative approach to support intensive behavioral counseling in health centers and support for baby-friendly prenatal care. In schools, the Rochester City School District and the Rochester School for the Deaf will implement Coordinated School Health Plans, blueprints for creating healthy school environments. The URMC Department of Community and Preventive Medicine will perform a comprehensive evaluation in concert with the CDC.

“The impact this grant will have on the community can only be achieved through Rochester’s unique collaborative spirit,” said URMC CEO Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D.“This is another opportunity for the University of Rochester Medical Center, the Center for Community Health, the Monroe County Department of Public Health and all our valued partners to embrace a model of community health improvement that emphasizes prevention, an approach that is critical to the future health of this region,” Berk said.