« March 2015 Issue

Roadmaps to Health Community Grants Program Reflects on Lessons Learned

Launched in 2011, Community Catalyst’s Roadmaps to Health Community Grants program has played a vital role in moving forward constructive initiatives to improve the health of communities around the nation by addressing the social determinants of health. This bold new direction for Community Catalyst took place as part of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program (CHR&R), a groundbreaking collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program was developed to identify problems and create solutions that make it easier for people to be healthy in their own communities.

With funding from RWJF, the Roadmaps to Health Community Grant program issued and managed two rounds of two-year grants to support state and local efforts among policymakers, business, education, health care, public health and community organizations to address the social, economic and other factors that affect the health of people in their community. Twelve grantees were selected in 2011 and 18 in 2012. With the second cycle of grants completing their terms in late 2014, the Roadmaps to Health staff at Community Catalyst spent the past several months completing a wide-ranging “lessons learned” evaluation and reflection document for RWJF. The report covers the ways the Roadmaps program assisted its grantees, its successes and the way forward to effecting more widespread change.

Looking back to the program’s launch, Roadmaps Program Director Phillip Gonzalez recalls, “We were thrilled for the opportunity to work with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and UWPHI because we have had an ongoing desire to engage in issues we know directly affect health, and in particular, to add elements of a public health effort to the work of Community Catalyst.”

The Roadmaps to Health program awarded grants to coalitions targeting city, county or state-level change in four key areas strongly impacting community health: Education, Income or Employment, Community Safety, and Family or Social Support. Evaluating grant applicants for their existing on-the-ground capacities, as well as those areas in which they could benefit from Community Catalyst’s technical assistance (TA), the Roadmaps program aimed to help grantees achieve change in areas the groups had identified as ripe for action.

At the time they were awarded funding, grantees were already well established leaders in their community. Accordingly, the funding and TA were organized to enhance their influence and complement their existing capacities. Community Catalyst assembled a Roadmaps technical assistance team that included communications and policy staff at Community Catalyst and expert advocacy campaign consultants from M+R and Working Partnerships USA. Community Catalyst also worked closely with coaches from the UWPHI Action Center. 

As the leader of the Community Grants program, Community Catalyst developed a framework of eight “capacities” for effective advocacy campaigns adapted from Community Catalyst’s System of Advocacy and the M+R PowerPrism. Community Catalyst and its TA team then identified and developed robust activities to strengthen these capacities among grantees so they could achieve greater results.

In addition to providing individualized technical assistance, full group webinars and gathering grantees at annual convenings, Community Catalyst and the technical assistance team also assembled an online toolkit of over 30 tools following a comprehensive review of dozens of tools from various sources to support advocacy capacities.

The combined hard work of grantees, Community Catalyst partners and the technical assistance team ensured significant strides were made in communities over the life of the program. Some examples of grantee successes over a diverse range of social determinant areas include: the leveraging of $1 billion of public funding to rebuild Baltimore’s schools, passage of Paid Sick Days Legislation in New York City, the establishing of the first Social Impact Bond Fund for early childhood education in Salt Lake City, and advocates in Minnesota getting Target Corporation to take criminal record questions off job applications nationwide.

While Community Catalyst’s role in launching a comprehensive TA model for the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program is now concluded, both Community Catalyst and the CHR&R program stand to benefit greatly from the lessons learned and set of recommendations submitted to RWJF.

“The experience of working with Roadmaps to Health has demonstrated that Community Catalyst’s approach to supporting advocacy can be directly relevant and useful to advocates who don’t necessarily pursue their work within the sphere of health,” says Gonzalez. “Whether dealing with issues of education, economic opportunity or community safety, we found that our approach and our language translate directly to their work. This experience has demonstrated that engaging with advocates outside of the health access world provides value added for them and for us.”

Bruce Gore, Communications Coordinator

O N   T H E   W I R E

Last week the health care justice community lost one of our visionaries and strongest leaders, Andy Hyman.

Jessica Curtis, a Senior Advisor to Community Catalyst, explains in The New York Times that new rules for non-profit hospitals will protect low-income people from price gouging and increase transparency about financial assistance available to patients.

In The Washington Post, Michael Miller, Policy Director, discussed the potential impact on consumers who would lose financial help paying for insurance if the Supreme Court strikes down tax credits for premiums in the King vs. Burwell case.

Robert Restuccia, Executive Director, cautioned the Obama administration to carefully assess new Medicaid waiver provisions approved in Indiana before allowing other states to implement similar measures in The New York Times.

Jessica Curtis told USA Today that high deductible health plans contribute to widespread issues of medical debt.

Join us in welcoming a new staff member and in congratulating staff members who have been promoted recently: Jack Cardinal joins us as a Communications Manager; Tera Bianchi is now a Senior State Advocacy Manager; Angela Jenkins is now the Value Advocacy Project Manager; and Emily Polak is now Associate Director of State Consumer Health Advocacy.

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