WASHINGTON – The nation's largest health care organization,the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,announced a huge investment in enhancing health care Thursday.
It will give $300 million to improve the quality of health care in 14 communities across the U.S. through a program called Aligning Forces for Quality.
The communities' hospitals will be provided with at least $1 million and substantial expert assistance to help work with local physicians.
This program will also enable consumers to make informed choices about their health care.
The program,nicknamed AF4Q,began in 2006 but is being expanded. It is aimed at connecting four groups to improve health care: patients,physicians,nurses and business men and women. “Aligning Forces for Quality represents a significant step forward in the national drive to improve the quality of care. Far too often,quality is left out of the health reform equation,” said Debra L. Ness,president of the National Partnership for Women,in a statement.
This new commitment comes in light of new research,carried out by the Dartmouth Atlas Project,which analyzed Medicare claims. It found differences in health care treatment along regional and racial lines.
Louisiana and Alaska demonstrate how health care quality varies along regional lines. Louisiana has the highest rate of amputations – 1.66 of every 1,000 beneficiaries lost a leg from 2003 to 2005,compared to the national average of 1.14.
In Alaska,71 percent of patients with diabetes got tested for blood sugar control every year,compared to the national average of 84 percent.
Whites are also receiving better health care treatment than blacks,the data said. Eighty-five percent of white patients with diabetes got blood sugar control tests,compared to 79 percent of African Americans.
Nearly two-thirds of white women got mammograms,compared to 57 percent of African-American women.
“These numbers represent real people,and we know these people are not getting the right treatment at the right time,” said Risa Mourey,the foundation's president.
Bruce Siegel,AF4Q drector,addressed how the program is expanding to take on these new findings. It plans to focus on decreasing racial and ethnic gaps and to expand the role that nurses play in hospitals.
“Let's be clear,we are aiming for something revolutionary,” he said.
AF4Q has helped people like Cynthia Nunnally,43,an African-American woman from Memphis,one of the communities getting a grant,see beyond their illness and toward the future. A nurse,she has been suffering with diabetes for 35 years. She said the program has helped her navigate the medical system and to know her rights.
“My future is just as bright as anyone that does not have diabetes. I know that there are programs like the Aligning for Quality,I know there are good providers,and I also know that I have to take an active role,” she said.
The other 13 communities getting grants are Cincinnati,Cleveland,Detroit,Humboldt County, Calif.; Kansas City,Mo.; Maine,Minnesota,Seattle,South Central Pennsylvania,Western Michigan,Western New York,Willamette Valley,Ore.,and Wisconsin.
Siegel said that the programming in these 14 communities is not the end,but a progression. “We will spread the lessons from these 14 communities to the rest of America.”