Public Health Directions: Spring 2013

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Helping Measure Program Impact for Community Well-Being

PHMC understands intimately the importance of data for regional organizations that deal with health services, as well as its significance for policy and decision makers in matters of community health. As a public health institute and a leader in community health data collection, analysis, integration and application, PHMC is constantly innovating to enrich its data. In February 2013, PHMC expanded its scope even further—as an outgrowth of the work of PHMC’s Research and Evaluation Group—through the launch of the Center for Data Innovation. The mission of the Center for Data Innovation is to expand on the existing Community Health Data Base and deliver data-driven results to improve the well-being of communities as a whole. The Center expands on the rich Community Health Data Base products and services and will include additional capabilities for both nonprofit and corporate members in the Delaware Valley area, including:

  • A geographic reach that extends beyond the Southeastern Pennsylvania region
  • Quantitative data collection through the Community Health Database (CHDB) and its biennial Household Health Survey, other targeted community surveys, and qualitative data collection including focus groups, key informant interviews and multimodal research initiatives that are integrative with and expand the depth of our community surveys
  • Community health needs assessments and community health policy studies
  • Technical assistance trainings on outcome measurement and logic models
  • Innovative online tools, data dashboards, web page applications and enhanced online analytic capabilities that improve the accessibility and timeliness of information that the Center collects
  • Collaborations with national, state and federal agencies as well as foundations to both inform and disseminate information

The need for community-based information about area residents is important in providing measurable impact to the communities we serve. “We are getting a very good response from our members who appreciate this value-offering,” says Francine Axler, senior research associate. CHDB members look forward to the household survey results every two years, through its biennial survey. Currently, CHDB is one of the largest community-based household health surveys in the country and is used by over 400 agencies. It incorporates a rigorous methodology that enables it to offer insight into neighborhoods and service areas, creating a tailored data and technical assistance product for each user. Now,  with the launch of the Center, members get enhanced offerings all in one place.

We did a search process to find a research partner to help hospitals with the community needs assessments required by the Affordable Care Act. Our research showed CHDB as a clear winner. CHDB is unique because it can provide regional information on a whole host of public health and health care access issues. The data is great for viewing trends, making longitudinal comparisons and comparing how we’re doing on national, state and Healthy People goals. It was also great to work directly with their staff to develop our community needs assessment questionnaire."

- Priscilla Koutsouradis, Communications Director, Delaware Valley Healthcare Council of The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania

We’ve been using CHDB for 10 plus years. CHDB is innovative in that it is always adding new topics to its biennial questionnaire. It does a good job of collecting, analyzing and promoting the database. Having CHDB data certainly gave Main Line Health a leg up on other parts of the country that don’t have the extensive community health database that we’re fortunate to have. We use CHDB data and information for many of our grant proposals and for demographic information that is hard to find elsewhere."

- Morris Fansler, MPA, FACHE, Director, Strategic Marketing and Research, Main Line Health

In addition to helping nonprofit organizations in the region address many of the challenges of today’s changing health and human services environment, PHMC’s Targeted Solutions consults with outside healthcare service agencies to provide a broad spectrum of innovative services pertaining to health information technology (HIT), such as the implementation of electronic health records (EHR).

One such partnership is between Targeted Solutions and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania (PPSP). Currently, PHMC offers HIT consulting services via Targeted Solutions to PPSP, which has 12 locations throughout the region. Services include go-live project management and coordination, needs assessment, workflow analysis and advising on best practices for transitioning from paper health records to EHR.

Through this work, we will help providers and administrators usher their practices and patients into the next stage of technology. This work can directly improve care quality and accessibility.”

“Planned Parenthood’s services are crucial to Southeastern Pennsylvania,” says Anne Lynn, MPH, health information technology specialist II at PHMC. “Through this work, we will help providers and administrators usher their practices and patients into the next stage of technology. This work can directly improve care quality and accessibility.” Transitioning from paper to electronic health records is a major interdepartmental project with which PHMC has many years’ experience, both from transitioning its own health centers to EHR in 2007 and through PHMC’s work with PA REACH East, the Regional Extension Center in eastern Pennsylvania dedicated to helping healthcare practices meet the federal standard of care with EHRs known as Meaningful Use.

“When we began planning for our transition to electronic medical records, it was clear to me that we did not have all the necessary expertise in-house,” says Ilene Marker, vice president for patient services at PPSP. “We were delighted to find Targeted Solutions. Their experience supporting electronic medical records transitions, range of skills within the group and collaborative work model have helped us launch the project with confidence and clarity. We are very pleased to be partnering with them on this critical undertaking.”

For more information about EHR assistance for your health center, contact Michael Bedrosian, managing director of information systems for PHMC, at
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Public Health Directions sat down with Caryn Gratz, managing director of behavioral health at PHMC, to talk about her beginnings as a social worker, her passion for behavioral health and her plans for PHMC’s behavioral health network in 2013.

QWhat attracted you to the work of behavioral health?
Were you always in this field?

AI’ve been in the field of behavioral health for over 25 years. Initially, I started as a social worker because I loved working directly with people and making a difference in their lives. Later on, I moved from direct care with adults to a more administrative, holistic role—enforcing system-wide change by influencing the structure of programs.

QYou’ve been working here since October 2012.
What impresses you about PHMC’s behavioral health network?

AIts diversity. PHMC’s behavioral health network has such a diverse range of programming. We have a lot of expertise and knowledge in a lot of areas, ranging from addiction services to sexual abuse.

QWhat are some of the challenges of managing
a behavioral network program this large?

A[Laughs] Well, on the flip side, the pro can also be a con. Our diversity is both impressive and challenging. But the actual challenges have more to do with reacting to changes in funding streams and policies.

Who or what inspires you as you carry out this work?

ABefore I came here, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by the individuals responsible for deinstitutionalizing behavioral health and bringing clients into the community and helping them navigate the system. It was a good learning experience and it offered me an invaluable perspective on the effects that transformation and recovery can have on clients. It also gave me more depth about behavioral health.

QWhat are some of your team’s plans for PHMC’s
behavioral health network this year?

AOne of our primary focuses is the integration of primary and behavioral care under PHMC. We also want to emphasize the infusion of quality initiatives. In the midst of financial and political changes, we challenge ourselves to maintain a high level of quality for our clients. We believe we can find creative ways to work with our clients and their families. Finally, we want to continue to grow and expand through partnerships with other organizations in the community.

What do you do when you’re not helping to transform lives at PHMC?

AI strive to spend all the time that I can with my 10-year-old and 8-year-old daughters.

As a parent, Theresa Keith knows firsthand the importance of keeping tobacco out of the hands of youth. “When I drop my daughter off to high school, there’s always a certain corner where the teens are gathered, smoking,” she recalls. However, as an FDA commissioned officer and tobacco enforcement coordinator for Health Promotion Council (HPC), a PHMC affiliate, Keith actually has the power to prevent tobacco from ever reaching the hands of minors. In her position at HPC’s Tobacco Enforcement Program, which receives funds from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to monitor Philadelphia stores for compliance with the Youth Access Law to prohibit tobacco sales to those under age 18, Keith performs tobacco compliance checks twice weekly at stores throughout Philadelphia. Along with 16 adult surveyors, and seven youth surveyors, Keith and her team at HPC make unscheduled stops to merchants all over the city to find out who may be illegally selling tobacco to minors. Now, Keith and her team’s job just got easier, thanks to tablet PCs.

In January 2013, tablet PCs replaced paper as the primary method of reporting tobacco merchants that illegally sell tobacco to minors. “This has been a dream for quite a while,” says John Mullane, program manager at HPC’s Tobacco Enforcement Program. “In the past, reports were all done on paper surveys that then had to be returned to the office, during business hours, and faxed to the city for enforcement. With this new device, we will be able to send out a report immediately after the illegal sale.” In addition to decreasing turnaround time, the digital reports have the additional benefit of clarifying reports. “Sometimes it can be hard to discern handwriting,” says Keith, laughing. “Not everyone has the neatest, most legible handwriting.”

In Philadelphia alone, HPC has conducted as many as 10,000 surveys a year for SmokeFreePhilly. Adults escort youth to various locations in the city that sell tobacco. At the location, youth go into the store and attempt to buy tobacco products. Once the sale occurs, the adults report the incident to the Philadelphia Department of Environmental Health Services, which issues a citation. “In the last year, the sales rate of tobacco decreased 8 percent,” says Keiren O’Connell, regional director of HPC’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Programs. “I fully expect that this number will get even lower thanks to this new technology.”

HPC collaborated closely with PHMC’s IS department on the tablet initiative. “PHMC has the unique capability to not only develop applications for its programs, but also to host them as a cloud services provider,” says Michael Bedrosian, managing director of information systems. “The application uses the tablet’s GPS capability to record the exact location of the store, making it easier to support Department of Public Health enforcement efforts.”

Jeffrey Knightly, a programmer analyst with IS, helped with the project. He and other IS programmers created an application that allows users to take pictures of the stores with their tablets, record information about the store, and if the store is in violation, generate a report of the violation to be immediately processed for a citation. “It just saves so much time,” says Knightly. “It’s an invaluable tool.”

On Saturday, May 4, PHMC affiliate Joseph J. Peters Institute kicks off the second in a series of conferences at Widener University about men’s lives that will focus on healing from childhood trauma from sexual abuse, physical abuse, bullying and emotional abuse related to homophobia. Featured presenters include Dr. Richard Gartner, therapist and nationally recognized author on recovery from male childhood sexual abuse, and Dr. Michael Kimmel, a sociologist and one of our era’s foremost thinkers on male development and masculinity. The goal is to help participants think beyond pathology and victimhood to the possibilities for men healing and restoring trust in their relationships. Participants will learn how these injuries arise and how they are are exacerbated by the culture of masculinity and effects of growing up male in our society. For more information about the conference, or to register, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..