Tufts Health Plan Foundation Awards Three Year Grant to Age Friendly RI

Tufts Health Plan Foundation announced a three year grant to Age Friendly RI as part of nine new community investments totaling $972,000, all of which demonstrate the Foundation’s commitment to policies and practices that support healthy aging. These investments are in addition to $3.9 million in grants announced earlier this year.

“The Foundation is proud to support community efforts to be vibrant, healthy and equitable,” said Tom Croswell, Tufts Health Plan president and CEO and a member of the Foundation’s board of directors. “Advocating for public policy change is essential to achieving social change at scale.”
Tufts Health Plan Foundation is the only regional funder exclusively focused on healthy aging. The new grants support engagement of older people as advocates on critical policy work to include addressing gaps in food and health care access, transportation and community safety.

“We value advocacy and leadership among older people,” said Nora Moreno Cargie, president of Tufts Health Plan Foundation and vice president for corporate citizenship at Tufts Health Plan. “The organizations we are supporting demonstrate collaboration with state agencies and other community groups that spurs innovation and makes our communities better places to grow up and grow old.”

Age Friendly Rhode Island was awarded $360,000 to strengthen its organizational capacity and engage, encourage and expand cross-sector collaboration and information sharing.

 

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Blue Cross & Blue Shield of RI Awards $200,000 to Support Safe and Affordable Housing

Recognizing the impact that access to safe and affordable housing has on health and well-being, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) has awarded a total of $200,000 to five organizations focused on increasing awareness of the need for, and improving access to, affordable housing in Rhode Island.  BCBSRI has expanded the scope of its grantmaking to include funding for housing-related initiatives.

BCBSRI’s decision to expand philanthropic giving to include housing followed the recent release of the RI Life Index, a new data resource focused on life factors, or social determinants of health (SDoH), which influence health and well-being. Specifically, the RI Life Index found availability of, and access to, safe and affordable housing is a significant concern and challenge for many Rhode Islanders.

“I’m excited that as a first step in activating the findings of the RI Life Index we are making investments that address the critical role of safe and affordable housing on the overall health and well-being of Rhode Islanders,” said BCBSRI President & CEO Kim Keck. “Extensive research shows that housing is a crucial factor influencing not only health outcomes, but also, significantly, school performance. Our company is proud to support organizations making a difference for Rhode Island families by addressing this critical need.”

Recipients of BCBSRI’s end-of-year grants include Housing Network of Rhode Island; Crossroads Rhode Island; HousingWorks RI;  The Village Common; and Family Service of Rhode Island.

Tufts Health Plan Foundation Mini-Grants Support Community-led Healthy Aging Work

Forty community-based organizations each will receive a Momentum Fund mini-grant of up to $10,000 from Tufts Health Plan Foundation. Now in its second year, the fund was established to foster promising ideas and support cities and towns in their efforts to make their communities better places to grow up and grow old.

“These mini-grants make it possible for organizations to build on community insights,” said Nora Moreno Cargie, president of Tufts Health Plan Foundation and vice president of corporate citizenship at Tufts Health Plan. “We know the best ideas come from cities and towns as they reimagine aging.”

The Momentum Fund is supporting 10 projects in Rhode Island. Each is community-led, addresses healthy aging and includes older people in the planning and implementation process. The projects address the social determinants of health, including access to healthy food and affordable housing. Several projects provide support for people living with dementia and promote healthy aging in multicultural communities.

“Many of the Momentum Fund recipients are taking on new programs or projects to make their communities more age- and dementia-friendly,” said Phillip González, the Foundation’s senior program officer. “We look forward to learning with them.”

The Foundation convened review committees in each state to inform the grantmaking process. Review committee members have diverse backgrounds and experience, and will ensure that learning and insights are shared across Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

The 2019 Momentum Fund grant recipients in Rhode Island are Cranston Senior Services ; Family Service of Rhode Island; Healthcentric Advisors; Hope’s Harvest Rhode Island ;
LMW Healthcare, Inc.; Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island, Inc.; Progreso Latino, Inc.; Rhode Island Community Food Bank; SAGE-RI; SAGE-RI; The Providence Village of Rhode Island.

CVS Health Partners with Alzheimer’s Association

GCRI member CVS Health and the Alzheimer’s Association announced a three-year corporate partnership aimed at fighting Alzheimer’s disease – a disease impacting more than 5 million Americans and 16 million caregivers across the country. The partnership is launching with an in-store fundraising campaign that will provide $10 million to support Alzheimer’s Association programs, including those aimed at caregiver education, care and support, and disease research.

“I know from my own experience caring for my mother as she battled Alzheimer’s how important it is to support both the patient and the caregivers in that patient’s life,” said Kevin Hourican, Executive Vice President, CVS Health and President, CVS Pharmacy. “Our partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association will fund important programs to help our customers who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, while also connecting them to needed resources and services that can support them.”

The in-store fundraising campaign, which launched Sunday, November 3, will run at the 9,900 CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide through November 23. During these three weeks, CVS Pharmacy customers will have the opportunity to contribute to the Alzheimer’s Association at the register in CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide. The in-store fundraising campaign will repeat the next two Novembers, coinciding with National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month.

Throughout November, the Alzheimer’s Association and CVS Health will communicate with customers about tips and resources available to support family caregivers. Currently, more than 16 million family members and friends are serving as Alzheimer’s caregivers. Nearly half of all caregivers (48 percent) who provide help to older adults do so for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Some of the proceeds from the campaign will be used by the Alzheimer’s Association to develop a new caregiver education program for in-person and online delivery in English and Spanish.

In conjunction with the partnership, beginning in 2020, CVS Health will also serve as a national presenting sponsor of the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s, held annually in more than 600 communities across the country. CVS Health will also participate in the event, joining the National Walk Team Program, providing its 295,000 employees across the country an opportunity to join in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is grateful for the commitment and enthusiasm CVS Health brings to the fight against Alzheimer’s,” McCullough said. “The funds raised through our partnership will bolster our efforts to support families facing Alzheimer’s and advance much needed research that will one day change the future for millions.”

BCBSRI Launches Rhode Island Life Index

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI), through a partnership with the Brown University School of Public Health (Brown), unveiled a report summarizing a new data resource – the RI Life Index – based on interviews conducted with more than 2,200 Rhode Islanders about life factors influencing health and well-being in the state.

The survey results, representing Rhode Islanders’ perceptions about their own health and well-being, as well as that of their community, offer a first-of-its-kind, unique window into what state residents believe to be significant challenges as well as community strengths.

The RI Life Index showed strengths in the following areas: availability of safe and reliable transportation; access to affordable, nutritious food; availability and quality of civic, social, and healthcare services for seniors and the ability to age in place; and programs and services available for children. In contrast, respondents had lower perceptions of the availability of quality affordable housing, job opportunities and job training programs.

“At Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, our vision to passionately lead a state of health and well-being across Rhode Island was the impetus for creating this index. As a proud local company celebrating 80 years, we are committed to building a healthier Rhode Island,” said Kim Keck, BCBSRI president and CEO. “The RI Life Index confirms something we’ve seen reported at the national level – when it comes to health outcomes and overall well-being, zip code is more important than genetic code. Where people are born and live in Rhode Island has a profound impact on their lives.”

Keck continued, “Using the RI Life Index data as a foundation, for the first time in our company history we will launch BlueAngel Community Health Grants (BACHG) focused on housing, complementing our existing philanthropic investments.”

BCBSRI unveiled the RI Life Index at an event that included remarks from Keck and Bess Marcus, Ph.D., dean of the Brown School of Public Health. Melissa Clark, Ph.D., professor of health service, policy and practice, and director of the Survey Research Center at the School of Public Health, presented the RI Life Index and talked about the research she and her team conducted.

“The School of Public Health worked to develop and ensure the highest quality data collection for the Life Index survey in order to capture the perceptions of health and well-being from Rhode Islanders,” said Brown professor of health service, policy and practice Melissa Clark. “As many residents of Rhode Island already know, social determinants of health, such as the cost of housing and employment issues, often make it incredibly challenging for many families to experience the highest quality of health and well-being.”

The RI Life Index survey was conducted in April and May 2019 with randomly selected Rhode Island residents from across the state. The survey focused on social determinants of health, as well as topic areas specific to older adults, children, social integration and access to healthcare. The survey also asked about the opioid epidemic, access to mental health and substance use treatment, discrimination in healthcare and emergency room use.

Using the data, percent of the possible (POP) scores were created for various aspects of health and well-being in a community. This allowed for the combination of multiple indicators into a single score, allowing for easier observation of targeted areas for improvement, as well as community strengths. Scores ranging from 0 to 100 show how close the community is to the ideal, with a higher POP score indicating moving toward a healthier community. Scores were also determined factoring in geography, age and income.

“The Rhode Island Life Index is truly a data resource, one that will guide us in how we assist boots-on-the-ground organizations in their essential work to improve the lives of all Rhode Islanders,” said Keck. “This is just the beginning. Armed with our vision and these data, BCBSRI will develop new approaches – and strengthen existing programs – to address health disparities and gaps in health outcomes. And that effort will start by directing our BACHG competitive grant program to support initiatives that result in more Rhode Islanders being able to access safe, healthy and stable housing in 2020.”

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island Awards Grants for Rhode Island Senior Centers That Step(ped) Up (to the) Challenge

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) motivated older adults to log steps and physical activity in September in support of senior centers across the state – all part of BCBSRI’s first-ever Step Up Challenge.  The friendly competition not only helped participants maintain or increase their own physical activity, but also helped three senior centers – one from each of three regions in the state – earn a $2,500 grant for health and wellness activities.

Throughout the month of September, participating senior centers tracked a total of 141,780,081 steps. The winners of the Step Up Challenge were recognized on October 19 at the Life Expo at Twin River in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Each was presented with a $2,500 check.  Winners were North Providence Mancini Center, Benjamin Church Senior Center and Cranston Senior Center.

“We are thrilled with how many older Rhode Islanders participated in our first-ever Step Up Challenge and for the support they showed to senior centers around the state,” said Ivette Luna, manager, Consumer Engagement at BCBSRI. “Helping older adults maintain their health and wellness is a priority for BCBSRI and events like the Step Up Challenge reinforce our vision of passionately leading a state of health and well-being in Rhode Island.”

In addition to the first place winners, runner-ups in each region will receive one month of fitness programming sponsored by BCBSRI. The Step Up Challenge began on September 1 with kick-off walks in Warwick, Bristol and Lincoln.  In all, 20 senior centers participated in the challenge.  In addition, participants who were not members of a senior center could also register as part of a team at one of the three BCBSRI Your Blue Store locations.  More than 1,300 people registered for the Step Up Challenge.

Textron Volunteers (and Golf Carts) Connect Veterans to Services at Operation Stand Down RI

Textron employees volunteered at Operation Stand Down RI, an event that provides access to social and supportive services for military veterans. With the donation of seven E-Z-GO golf cars and the many volunteers that gave of their time, the Textron team was able to provide shuttles around the site to allow veterans take advantage of all the services offered at the event.

Volunteers drove veterans to and from the different tents to get haircuts, massages, career advice, clothing, legal counsel and complimentary meals.

Erik Wallin, Executive Director of Operation Stand Down RI said, “On behalf of the over 450 veterans served at this year’s annual Stand Down Weekend, Operation Stand Down RI wishes to thank Textron for donating the use of golf cars to transport veterans and service providers. We also express our gratitude to the dozens of Textron employees who volunteered their time over three days and showed such compassion towards our veterans who came for life changing services. The dedicated team of Textron volunteers honored our local veterans by their own service as they have done for the past several years.”

“It was a privilege, and such a small token of my appreciation to do something for our veterans who have sacrificed so much for this country,” says Al Casazza, Director of Global Services and Real Estate. “I’m looking forward to doing it again next year.”

Tufts Health Plan Employees Designate $25,000 to Local Nonprofits

Community organizations aiding veterans, single mothers with low incomes, LGBTQ+ Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness, immigrants and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities will each receive a $5,000 grant as a result of a program engaging Tufts Health Plan employees in grantmaking.

“This grant program is an opportunity for our business resource groups to recommend nonprofit organizations addressing important community issues,” said Tufts Health Plan president and CEO Tom Croswell, who also serves on the Tufts Health Plan Foundation board of directors. “Giving back isn’t just something we do; it’s part of our culture. I’m incredibly proud of the dedicated employees who demonstrate their commitment to the community through this program and each and every day.”

Each of Tufts Health Plan’s five business resource groups (BRGs) nominated an organization aligned with their affinity to receive a grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation.  Two Rhode Island organizations were beneficiaries of the grants, Crossroads Rhode Island and Operation Stand Down Rhode Island.

·        Prism, the LGBTQ and allies BRG, recommended Crossroads Rhode Island, an organization that provides services and supports to LGBTQ residents of Rhode Island. The grant will support Crossroads’ programming that assists LGBTQ individuals with shelter, food and other services. (Providence, R.I.)

·        Veterans & Military, the veterans and allies BRG, recommended Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, an organization that connects military veterans with services, supports and job opportunities. The grant will support the annual Stand Down Weekend outreach event, where hundreds of veterans are connected to services and supports from agencies across Rhode Island. (Johnston, R.I.)

More information

RI Foundation Grants Seed Local Medical Research

The Rhode Island Foundation is awarding more than $400,000 in seed funding to 17 promising medical research projects. The work ranges from developing data that could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of people suffering from opioid use disorder in hospital ERs to determining the impact of social media on the desire to drink.

The grants are designed to help early-career researchers advance projects to the point where they can compete for national funding. With this round of grants, the Foundation has awarded nearly $2.5 million since 2008.

“We are grateful that our generous donors provide the crucial source of seed funding that enables local researchers to purse promising medical advances,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “Our hope is that their successes will bring about healthier lives as well as a healthier economy.”

Johnson & Wales University received $20,300 for “Using Social Media Comments to Reduce the Desire to Drink.” The study will be led by Jonathan Noel, assistant professor in the College of Health & Wellness.

The study will test whether comments left in response to a social media post can influence the desire to drink. The study will examine the effects of those responses, including warning messages from public health organizations and responsibility messages developed by the alcohol industry.

“My hypothesis is that the pro-drinking comments will increase the desire to drink, while anti-drinking and responsible-drinking messages will be a deterrent,” Noel said.

“Social media marketing is more than just the ad message. It’s surrounded by other information we might not notice, such as basic user engagement including comments, likes and shares. If a post or ad has been liked by a friend, you are given an incentive beyond what the ads are actually presenting,” said Noel.

“From what history has taught us regarding tobacco use, in order to really see a decrease in binge drinking and the consequences of alcohol use stemming from this form of advertising, we would need to change how people engage and interact with these ads,” he said.

Rhode Island Hospital received $24,914 for “Quality Improvement of Emergency Department Opioid Use Disorder Treatment.” The study will be led by Elizabeth Samuels, M.D., MPH, MHS.

“Emergency departments (ED) can be a key point of intervention for people treated for an opioid overdose. Each overdose we treat in the ED is an opportunity to provide harm reduction services and linkage to addiction treatment,” said Samuels.

The study will assess patient use of hospital emergency services with the aim of identifying ways to improve care, including harm reduction services, medication for addiction treatment, and counseling by recovery coaches.

“Opioid overdose patients seen in the ED are at high risk of repeat overdose and opioid overdose death. By understanding utilization barriers and how services could be improved, we aim to improve care for people who use opioids to prevent future overdoses and overdose death,” she said.

The other grants are:

  • Brown University received $25,000 for “Redox Control of Immunoregulatory Factors as Targeted Therapies for Inflammation,” led by George Lisi, Ph.D.
  • Brown University received $25,000 for “Alginate Gels for the Release of Immunomodulatory Cues in Ischemic Skin Flaps,” led by Fabiola Munarin, Ph.D.
  • Rhode Island College received $23,986 for “Genetic Basis of Zebrafish Embryonic Melanoctye Migration and Pattern Formation,” led by Larissa Patterson, Ph.D.
  • Rhode Island Hospital received $25,000 for “Effect of Moveable Niches Vesicles on the Development and Mitigation of Bone Marrow Failure,” led by Sicheng Wen, Ph.D.
  • The Miriam Hospital received $25,000 for “HIV Transmitted Drug Resistance and Transmission Networks in the Northern Dominican Republic,” led by Martha Sanchez, M.D.
  • The Miriam Hospital received $24,994.46 for “Understanding Barriers to Health Care among Recently Incarcerated High-risk Women,” led by Collette Sosnowy, Ph.D.
  • The Ocean State Research Institute received $25,000 for “Cardiopulmonary Fitness, Premature Vascular Aging and Subclinical Cardiovascular Disease in HIV,” led by Sebhat Erqou, Ph.D.
  • The Ocean State Research Institute received $25,000 for “Macrophages under Pressure in Right Ventricular Dysfunction Associated with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension,” led by Jamila Siamwala, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “Improving Dissemination of Technology-Delivered Physical Activity Interventions,” led by Lauren Bohlen, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $24,956 for “A Pilot Intervention to Reduce Sedentary Time among Older Adults Living in Senior Housing,” led by Mary Greaney, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “A Bioinspired in Situ Delivery Platform with Tunable Drug Release for Improved Cancer Therapy,” led by Jie Shen, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “The Effects of Obesity during Pregnancy on Offspring Pancreas DNA Methylation,” led by Maria Hoffman, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “Investigating Specialized Ribosomes and Gene Regulation in Francisella Tularensis,” led by Kathryn Ramsey, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “Skeletal Muscle Oxidative Capacity Evaluation in Children with Cerebral Palsy,” led by Alessandra Adami, Ph.D.

Tufts Health Plan Foundation Awards $315,000 to 3 RI Organizations

As part of a $1.9 million effort to support age friendly communities in New England, Tufts Health Plan Foundation has awarded $315,000 to three Rhode Island organizations.

Recipients included Rhode Island Parent Information Network for senior wellness programs, Rhode Island Public Health Institute for its “Food on the Move” mobile markets, and Saint Elizabeth Community for its supportive housing program for seniors.

“Each community has its own unique needs. Tufts Health Plan Foundation focuses resources in communities that want to achieve age-friendly practices that are relevant, focus on underrepresented communities and engage older people in the process,” said Nora Moreno Cargie, president of the Tufts Health Plan Foundation and vice president of corporate citizenship for Tufts Health Plan. “We are proud to support organizations that are responding to the needs of older people in their communities.”