Leaders in Health Care: Outstanding Achievement in Community Outreach

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota

By Caitlin Hill

Editor's note: Nominations for the 2013 Leaders in Health Care Awards close on 8/12! Tell us who deserves the next Community Outreach award here.

In 2009, when the H1N1 virus was at its height, the staff at Children's Hospitals and Clinics took action. With their quick-thinking and excellent leadership, they successfully vaccinated 10,000 high-risk patients and 4,000 medical staff.

Aware of the effect that serious viruses and diseases can have on a community, Children's published a study in 2011 revealing that in Minnesota, childhood vaccination rates were stagnating and they were seeing a recurrence of vaccine-preventable diseases. In response, the hospital produced a White Paper to raise awareness about the importance of on-time vaccinations that was released simultaneously with a "Vaccination Awareness Forum," also hosted by Children's.

"In the last 20 years, there's been a backlash [of preventable diseases]. So, we had to start raising our voice again or we would see kids die," says Dr. Phillip Kibort, chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs at Children's.

Sixty health care professionals from across Minnesota joined the forum, which featured a wide-ranging panel of speakers, including elected officials and parents representing at-risk communities.

Children's made sure to keep the momentum going, not just by raising awareness, but also by stepping into the community and taking action. Kibort says that Children's will continue to run clinics when there are epidemics, even mild ones, and open their doors to anyone who needs to be immunized, whether they are children or adults.

"This is one of those things where you never accomplish it because your goal is to get to zero," Kibort says. "We will always look for new and unique ways to get the info out ."

Outstanding Achievement in Community Outreach Finalists

PrairieCare Hospitals and Clinics

Studies have shown that only 25 percent of children and adolescents suffering from a diagnosable psychiatric disorder will be diagnosed and 25-25 percent will receive treatment. It's statistics like these that inspired PraireCare Chief Development Officer Todd Archbold to create the Clinical Education Program. This program focused on helping school staff understand and manage the symptoms of mental illness that manifest in the classroom, with the goal of teaching techniques and interventions that could improve the learning environment for students.

More than 60 school staff, including administrators, teachers and educational assistants, participated in nearly 25 hours of presentations, hands-on training and coaching to educate themselves on how to handle symptoms of mental illness. After the training, not only did the staff feel more comfortable in dealing with mental illness, but they also saw an increased ability to manage stress. The Clinical Education Program has become a successful model for community outreach and PrairieCare anticipates the program will double the size in 2013.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota

Janelle Waldock, director of Public Policy and Community Initiatives at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, is something of a "community health hero," leading a team of 19 people and directing $7 million in community programs. Waldock has committed much of her 20-year career to directing community advocacy campaigns and passing laws that help people live healthier lives.

Waldock was instrumental in passing a state tobacco health impact fee that motivated thousands of Minnesotans to quit smoking, and also successfully advocating for a state law that now protects all Minnesotans from secondhand smoke in the workplace. Waldock has also been instrumental in the Freedom to Breathe Act, which marks its fifth anniversary this fall, while Minnesota celebrates one of the lowest smoking rates in the country.

[View the full list of the 2012 Leaders in Health Care winners and finalists here]