Public Health Directions: Spring 2013

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How do public health initiatives identify and treat diseases as effectively as possible? The need to provide comprehensive, consistent treatment for people with HIV/AIDS, STDs, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis has accelerated momentum toward collaboration and integration of prevention services by health departments. In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a framework called “Program Collaboration and Service Integration Strategy” (PCSI) to improve health outcomes for these diseases. In fall 2012, National Nursing Centers Consortium (NNCC) and PHMC jointly began a new project through funding from the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI), of which PHMC has been a member for the last eight years.

The project, titled “Addressing Policy Barriers for State and Local Health Departments When Implementing the Program Collaboration and Service Integration Strategy,” involves a unique collaboration between PHMC, NNCC, the Temple Law Public Health Law Research Program (PHLR), and the PCSI Program at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and five other PCSI sites across the country, and aims to improve the implementation of PCSI through awareness of confidentiality laws. The interdisciplinary PHMC team includes NNCC’s Policy Associate Sarah Hexem and Policy Director Jamie Ware and PHMC’s Senior Research Associate Jennifer Lauby, who is directing the overall project.

“The clients that health departments serve often suffer from a number of chronic conditions and behavioral health issues. Traditionally, they have had to go to separate service providers for each of their conditions, resulting in care that is fragmented and uncoordinated,” says Lauby. While PCSI develops strategies for more coordination among providers and healthcare agencies, one potential barrier to coordination is the need to protect the confidential health information of each patient. Care providers are required to work within the laws of their state to find ways to best share information and coordinate care, while also protecting their clients’ privacy. “Our project will make it easier for healthcare agencies and providers to find and understand the laws that govern sharing of health information in their state,” says Lauby.

Beginning in September 2012, the NNCC, PHMC, the NNPHI and the CDC met about the project and shortly thereafter began collecting relevant statutes and regulations that address reporting requirements for HIV/AIDS, STDs, viral hepatitis, tuberculosis and more. These data include confidentiality and permissible disclosure to service providers; laws affecting partner notification; and laws on the use and security of surveillance data. The inventory of laws will include statutes and regulations in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and the 10 cities with the highest HIV burden that are eligible for direct CDC funding: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

After researching the laws, the team’s next steps include categorizing and evaluating the existing laws. Those results are then posted online on PHLR’s Law Atlas page ( A final report will identify jurisdictions with the fewest barriers to data sharing that can be a model for other jurisdictions.

“Although all health departments across the country should be thinking about how laws, regulations and rules used to protect people’s confidential information can affect successful data-sharing within health departments, it takes a certain amount of resources,” says Ware. “An assessment of laws related to the confidentiality of patient data has not been conducted in the last 10 years, but in this time of dwindling resources, we think it’s vital work.”

The end result will be a website available to the public in May 2013. All the relevant laws will then be available online, via a policy surveillance page, where updates can be made. “This project maximizes the opportunity for programs in health departments to share data about shared patients.” says Ware.

In spring 2013, The Villa, formerly St. Mary’s Villa for Children and Families, a specialized residential program for youth, joined PHMC as a member of its affiliate family. The Villa serves youth who have demonstrated a history of truancy, emotional trauma, family conflict and difficulties in the community. The Villa’s comprehensive program addresses the physical, cognitive, social, educational and emotional needs of youth so they can become productive members of society. The Villa offers services to address academic issues and strengthen family relationships, while developing age-appropriate social skills. Additionally, the programming focuses on the skill development necessary for reunification with family and introduction into the public school system. The inclusion of The Villa in PHMC’s affiliate family further expands the scope of PHMC’s services to the community.

Honors, Awards and Achievements

Eudora Burton, a social-services specialist for Opening Doors, a program of PHMC initially funded by the Pew Foundation and currently supported by the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey was recently featured in the Philadelphia Daily News. Opening Doors provides supports to PHMC affiliate National Nursing Centers Consortium’s Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), the Philadelphia branch of a national nonprofit organization that provides first-time, low-income mothers with a public health nurse home visiting program. In her role, Burton helps mothers increase their knowledge and skills to secure safe, affordable housing for their families. To find the article in the Philadelphia Daily News in full, click here.

On December 11, Shenille Melton, PALMS (Preventing AIDS through Live Movement and Sound) Project coordinator was featured on Huffington Post for her work on GenerationNext: Uncovered, a documentary she wrote, directed and produced. The 19-minute video captures teens and young adults talking about living with HIV. The video project was a collaboration between iChoose2live, a media and performing arts based company, and Take Control Philly, a Philadelphia Department of Public Health STD program. To watch the documentary in full, visit the Huffington Post website.

The December edition of Philadelphia SmartCEO Magazine features Richard J. Cohen, PHMC’s CEO and president in an article titled, “How Philadelphia business leaders are preparing for 2013.” To read the article online, click here.

Jason Schwalm, Out-of-School Time program specialist, recently contributed an article in AfterSchool Today. In the article, Schwalm writes about how project-based learning is an ideal vehicle for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as a part of the Out-of-School Time curriculum. Project-based learning (PBL) emphasizes hands-on activities and is driven by student interest and authentic inquiry. PBL classrooms engage students with new ideas—while preserving the fun and freedom of after-school programming. Program specialists at OST have observed an increase in STEM activities since the advent of PBL in Philadelphia.

In February, “Tapestry of Life,” a broadcast of Community College of Philadelphia’s CCPTV, featured Interim House, a PHMC affiliate. Host Pascal Scoles, Jr., professor of CCP’s Behavioral Health Human Services Program, Department of Behavioral Sciences, interviewed Interim House director Kathy Wellbank along with former client and current staffer Thelma Yancey. To watch the full episode of “Tapestry of Life—Women in Recovery,” click here.

Students Run Philly Style, a program of National Nursing Centers Consortium, a PHMC affiliate, was feature in this month’s issue of Sports Illustrated. Read the article, “How running changed the life of one Philadelphia teenager,” online now.


In February, Interim House, a PHMC affiliate, received a $12,500 Career Development for Women in Recovery grant from Women’s Way. The grant provides 15 successful graduates of Interim House with the opportunity to participate in a rigorous program to become certified in Pennsylvania as peer recovery specialists. They will receive academic and GED training with Interim House’s teachers and career training from PRO-ACT (Pennsylvania Recovery Organization — Achieving Community Together). As certified peer recovery specialists, they will receive more opportunities for well-paying careers helping other people who struggle with drug abuse or behavioral challenges.

In February, five environmental education projects received a total of $25,000 in grants from National Nursing Centers Consortium, through the US Environmental Protection Agency. The grant recipients include Briar Bush Nature Center, Sustainable Business Education Initiative, GreenTreks Network and more. To read the full list and to learn more about the projects, read the full story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

As of February, Community Health Data Base is excited to announce the release of the data from the 2012 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey. “The results of our 2012 Household Health Survey provide an excellent snapshot of the well-being of our communities and their residents,” says PHMC research associate Rose Malinowski Weingartner. “They allow programs to better understand the needs of the people they’re serving.” To read the full CHDB press release, visit the PHMC website. Additionally, visit our Public Health Dialogue blog for a Philadelphia Daily News article about the CHDB data release.

PHMC affiliate Metropolitan Career Center, a nonprofit workforce development organization that educates and trains individuals who have limited access to resources, has been awarded a two-year, $717,000 grant by STRIVE International to provide training and employment services to formerly incarcerated juveniles and young adults. The grant will enable MCC to serve 120 youths in Philadelphia through a new US Department of Labor (USDOL)–funded initiative called STRIVE for the Future.


In November 2012, clinicians, administrators and community partners across the United States had the opportunity to learn more about the Congreso Health Center, Philadelphia’s newest Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), a partnership of PHMC and Congreso de Latinos Unidos. The center, which serves an estimated 2,500 patients annually, opened in December 2012 and offers fully bilingual primary care to residents in the community regardless of their ability to pay.

The tour was just one feature of “Scalable Innovations for Health Centers and Public Housing,” a national technical assistance symposium hosted by Community Health Partners for Sustainability, a program of PHMC affiliate National Nursing Centers Consortium. Community Health Partners for Sustainability is a nonprofit provider of technical assistance and consultation for community health centers in underserved neighborhoods that lack access to affordable, quality health care.

The symposium examined, among other things, the implications of Affordable Care Act implementation, which authorizes funding to expand the nation’s network of FQHCs, which currently serve 20 million patients and are estimated to serve double that number by 2015. “The Affordable Care Act is remaking our nation’s healthcare system. This means communities that have traditionally been unserved or underserved have a tremendous opportunity to access the services they need to stay healthy,” said Alex Lehr O’Connell, director of Community Health Partners for Sustainability. “The symposium highlighted those opportunities, and explored best practices to ensure that so-called safety-net care never becomes second-class care, but remains care of the highest quality and efficiency.”

The event was held in partnership with the Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers, the Alliance for Children and Families, and the Mid-Atlantic Association of Community Health Centers and was made possible with the support of the Independence Foundation and the Independence Blue Cross Foundation. “Transforming health care through innovation is our foundation’s mission, and we’re proud that our funding for safety-net clinics, serving more than 150,000 of our region’s most vulnerable, has helped increase access to quality care,” said Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation. “We’re pleased to participate in the sharing of ideas and best practices that will continue to best serve those in need.”

Interested in participating in the next Community Health Partners for Sustainability national symposium, “Keys to Health Center Success,” in Denver, Colorado, on June 4–6, 2013? Submit an abstract. Click here for more information.

Community Health Partners for Sustainability Snapshot

The 2012 symposium “Scalable Innovations for Health Centers and Public Housing,” was held November 29–30, 2012 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia.

  • There were 224 attendees from 29 states, as well as the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico.
  • Over 25 individuals engaged in one-on-one technical assistance with Community Health Partners for Sustainability staff and consultants during the symposium.
  • In December, symposium participants were asked for feedback on each of the presenters. The overall session received an aggregate evaluation score of 8.14 out of ten (compared to an industry average of 7.10/10), and feedback was positive across all plenary and breakout presentations.


Here at PHMC, innovation isn’t just a word—it’s woven into the very core of our public health work.

Every day, our employees and stakeholders look at the work we do and find creative ways to do it better. Innovation means not only developing new solutions, but also staying ahead of the industry, providing our clients with high-quality, holistic care, tapping into our vast network and constantly expanding our services. Because the work we do doesn’t just affect lives, it affects entire communities, both regionally and nationally.

Our employees are always pushing for new initiatives in our region, like at Health Promotion Council (HPC) where HPC employees partnered with our IS team to provide electronic tablets to better report merchants who sell tobacco to our children. Or through Targeted Solutions, our consulting arm, which helps health care centers enter the 21st century by implementing electronic health records. The quest for innovation also inspired our Research and Evaluation Group to pioneer a groundbreaking study on LGBT elders and identify gaps in healthcare. 

Our commitment to regional innovation is also embodied in the PHMC Center for Data Innovation, which provides cutting-edge real-time data solutions to nonprofit and corporate sectors and directly increases the overall well-being of the community. Or in our partnership with our latest affiliate, The Villa, an organization that provides a specialized residential program for youth. Caryn Gratz, our new managing director of behavioral health, leads our new partnership with The Villa to further expand our service offerings.

We understand that innovation needs to be shared to help increase community impact. And that’s why we believe it’s part of our responsibility as a leading public health institute to offer assistance to other providers across the nation. For example, Community Health Partners for Sustainability, a subsidiary of our affiliate National Nursing Centers Consortium (NNCC), which celebrated its fifth conference just this year, continues to provide health clinics with the backup they need to focus on care.

Our public health work doesn’t stop in the Delaware Valley. Our passion to innovate motivates us to share our resources with communities across America. It’s why NNCC continues to partner with health lawyers, public health researchers and social service providers from a variety of national organizations to increase the transparency of information to health departments nationwide. And why we partner with Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal to share best strategies for nonprofits, foundations and social businesses.

But we couldn’t do it without you. Your support helps create and sustain healthier communities. Thank you for all you do.

Yours in public health,


Richard J. Cohen, PhD, FACHE
President and CEO of PHMC