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Building Healthy Families in Washington

Have you ever tried to call your bank, but couldn’t get a real person on the phone to answer your question? Or gotten stuck filling out a form online and didn’t know who to call? Systems can be overwhelming even for the savviest of us. They can be even more overwhelming for families with limited resources. That’s where our Healthy Connections Team comes in – trusted experts in navigating systems and local resources. We work with families to connect them to resources they need to be healthy and safe, including health insurance.

This month, the Healthy Connections Team was given an award from Public Health – Seattle & King County for enrolling 3,657 King County residents into health insurance from November 1, 2016 – January 31, 2017. WithinReach has been assisting families in obtaining health insurance during Open Enrollment since the inception of the Affordable Care Act four years ago. This year, our team was the top community service organization for enrollment numbers in King County!

What makes the Healthy Connections Team unique is that our outreach specialists and coordinators meet people where they are at – whether it’s providing information online, enrolling people in benefits programs over the phone, or meeting them in-person where they are. We understand the best way to connect people to the services they need is to eliminate the barriers standing in their way.

Many people don’t realize that if someone is referred to a service, it doesn’t mean that they actually receive the service. Sometimes, the application process may not be in a language they understand. Or they may always reach a busy signal when trying to call. Oftentimes, people don’t understand the qualifications for benefits or exactly what the benefits are. These are all things the Healthy Connections Team can navigate to make sure Washington families receive the support they need.

The Team is located in Seattle but provides services to people across the state. All of our team members are certified King County Navigators, trained to know the various health coverage options in Washington and help with eligibility and enrollment forms. Through this work, Washington families get connected to everything they need to be healthy and safe. To learn more about what the Healthy Connection team does, check out our ParentHelp123.org website!

Tags: Affordable Care Act   families   health insurance   Navigators   Public Health – Seattle & King County   Washington   WithinReach   

Giving Every Child a Shot at Life

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Shot@Life Champion Summit, a gathering of vaccine advocates from across the country who come together each year to learn about the crucial role the U.S. plays in supporting global immunizations. Advocates also learn the powerful impact of advocacy through trainings and meetings with Congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

Shot@Life, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation, aims to ensure that children around the world have access to life-saving vaccines. The campaign works to build a group of Champions (advocates), who will dedicate their voices, time, and support to standing up for childhood in developing countries.

At the Summit, I heard from several Champions who are experts in the areas of vaccines, global health, and international development. The most powerful speaker for me was Geeta Rao Gupta, a senior fellow at the UN Foundation who has worked to improve the lives of women and girls around the world. She focused on the value of vaccines for women, and not just in the obvious ways, like preventing cervical cancer. “When we talk about the statistics of infant mortality, we rarely talk about grief,” she said. She shared the heartbreaking story of her great-grandmother, who died of tuberculosis in her early thirties after losing five of eleven children in their infancies. I don’t think many of us living in Washington today can imagine how painful these losses must have been for her. And while it can be easy, in our day-to-day work, to focus on the numbers and rates, it’s a powerful reminder of why those numbers and rates matter. Dr. Gupta reminded us that vaccines don’t just “save lives” – they prevent grief, and allow mothers to focus their energies on caring for healthy children.

Dr. Gupta emphasized how fortunate we are to live during the age that we do, with advancements in vaccines and general health. However, developing countries are still in need of these valuable resources. And where vaccines could prevent an estimated 2.5 million deaths among children younger than age 5 around the globe, 1 child still dies every 20 seconds from a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine. Therefore, the U.S. strives to provide access and education around vaccines through a variety of ways. Did you know the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is key in leading worldwide efforts to eradicate polio and measles? Or that USAID is a key partner of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which creates immunization access for the world’s poorest countries, immunizing half a billion children? Even the U.S.’s contribution to UNICEF helps save lives, as they deliver vaccines to 45% of the world’s children. The U.S. is a leader in providing vaccine assistance globally, as well as here at home by providing funding to various organizations working at the community level.

Being a local organization that promotes immunizations, our work at WithinReach is also part of a global community. We’re reminded of that every year, as American travelers bring back vaccine-preventable diseases from across the globe. “Disease anywhere is disease everywhere” with our interconnected world and the ease of travel. Diseases that have been long rare at home are still prevalent in many other areas of the world. That is why it is important that we advocate and create awareness around vaccine-preventable diseases through our community members, our partners and state leaders. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can help every child have a shot at life, check out shotatlife.org.

Tags: childhood immunizations   Community Health   global health   immunizations   Shot@Life   vaccines   Washington state   WithinReach   

Celebrating, Learning and Leaping

As the leaves turn colors and fall from the trees, I am reminded in this season more than any other, that life is a series of beginnings and endings and beginnings. This is how it goes. There are things to celebrate and things to grieve, there are old journeys to remember and learn from, and there are new ways of thinking to be explored.
In this season of reflection, we are doing just that. We are looking back and celebrating the things we accomplished over the past 3 years to help families across Washington live healthier, safer lives. Astoundingly, over the last three years our staff informed more than 1,000,000 people about critical health and nutrition supports available to them.

More specifically, we helped more than 32,000 families enroll in health insurance, and nearly 18,000 access in the WIC nutrition program. In addition, we provided 232,000 families with information on immunizations, informed 174,000 families about local breastfeeding resources, and provided 227,000 families with information on free summer meals programs in their neighborhoods. Beyond the numbers, we helped set the stage for a coordinated statewide Help Me Grow network, became recognized as national experts in addressing vaccine hesitancy, and our Healthy Connections Model is widely known to be an effective and efficient model for addressing the social determinants of health.

Now we are looking ahead and exploring, as Seth Godin says, “the space between where we are now, and where we want to be, ought to be, are capable of being.” He describes this as a gap between our reality and our possibility, and notes that if we imagine the gap as a huge gulf or crevasse we will surely be paralyzed.

Rather he suggests that “the magic of forward movement is seeing the space as leap-sized, as something that persistent, consistent effort can get you through.” Herein is the grace—our work is to hold tight to a strong vision, while taking one step at a time toward a new reality.

Over the next several months our Board and Staff will work together to define a new 3-year strategic direction for our work. We know we want our new direction to be nimble and bold, in every way rooted in our strong history of service, capacity-building and advocacy, and inspired by our unending belief that every family deserves to be healthy and safe.

We look forward to having you join us on the journey ahead, in leap-sized strides, making sure that every family can be healthy and safe!

Tags: benefit programs   health insurance   hunger   Public Health   Washington state   WithinReach   

What’s it like to be on the WithinReach AmeriCorps team?

WithinReach podcast
We are recruiting for the next team of AmeriCorps members at WithinReach! Through direct client engagement, education, and empowerment, you can make a huge impact on health disparities and food security in Washington. This AmeriCorps position is great for applicants interested in careers in public health, non-profits, social services, nutrition access, and the healthcare system.

In the first-ever WithinReach podcast, our AmeriCorps Lead Emma chats with current team member Jessica about a typical day on the job, what she’s learned during her year of service, and more!

Learn more and apply today!

Tags: AmeriCorps   Community Health   health insurance   Health insurance enrollment   In-Person Assisters   King County   National Service   Seattle   WithinReach   

We are all pathways of hope

When I tell people the story of WithinReach – how we connect families across Washington to the resources they need to be healthy – without fail, the response I get is, “wow, you must really give people hope.” Better yet, when someone witnesses our staff in action, working directly with families – respectfully exploring their needs, patiently describing the available resources, making sure they know the next steps on the path, and bolstering their will to advocate for their health – the observer invariably says something like: “you could just hear the hope in her voice.”Though I have experienced this over and over in my years at WithinReach, telling people that we are in the business of increasing hope always seems like an insufficient outcome for our work.  Assuming, of course, that hope is a nice ‘extra,’ not a critical marker of success.  Turns out I was wrong.  We are absolutely, powerfully, in the business of hope.

At the recent Science of Hope Conference, hosted by our friends at the Foundation for Healthy Generations, I learned that hope can be measured, and it plays a key role in well-being. Research psychologists have identified 24 character strengths, that when maximized, help people flourish.  These strengths help us cope with stress and adversity, AND, it turns out that hope is the top predictor of well-being!

There are 3 key elements in the theory of hope. First, we need a desirable goal; next we need a viable pathway or pathways to reach our goal, and last, we need the will or energy to move along the path to our goal.

This is actually the PERFECT description of the work we do with families every day. The families who reach out to us have critically desirable goals – whether it is a young woman who thinks she might be pregnant and doesn’t know what to do next, or a single Dad who has lost his job and can’t provide enough food for kids, or a newly re-located family who doesn’t know how to get connected to early intervention services for their son who has autism – everyone is driven to help their family be as healthy as possible.

Our work is about helping people find pathways to their goals, and feeling supported to move along the path, no matter the roadblocks that come their way.

Keynote speaker Professor Chan Hellman painted hope as a social gift, and each of us as a pathway of hope for others. It’s real, our work is about hope.

Tags: Family Health Hotline   Foundation for Healthy Generations   Science of Hope   WithinReach   

Learning Our Way Through

Leading a non-profit organization that creates real social impact in the world today is harder than ever. We all work at high speed to keep up with the VUCA world we live in – a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

At WithinReach, we believe in growing leadership capacity from within.  And so, we regularly ask ourselves: what leadership competencies will help us create the greatest impact for the families, and how do we grow them?  A recent blog post by Nancy Winship at the Waldron Group, suggests that to meet the demands of the complicated, ever-changing landscape in which we work, we must be able to ‘learn our way through’ – becoming competent in discernment, resilience, courage, tolerance/respect and above all, self-awareness – the honest assessment of how we show up in our work as leaders, and in which areas we need to grow.

Most non-profit organizations find it hard to devote adequate, if any, resources to leadership development.  We are no different, but we are committed to being different.  We want to ensure that our staff gain the competencies they need to lead successfully in our dynamic world.

Every day, we are learning our way through together…to make the connections WA families need to be healthy.
 

Tags: leadership   nonprofit   Washington state   WithinReach   

Immunization Program: 2015 Reflections & 2016 Opportunities

2015 was a very good year for the Immunization Program at WithinReach.  In our efforts to promote immunization across the lifespan, our program grew substantially and we widened our scope of work.  We have forged dozens of new relationships and our statewide reach and collaboration is particularly strong.
As we enter 2016, I’d like to first call out a few of our greatest successes from 2015:

  • We welcomed Jessica Broz, Immunization Coordinator, to our team.  Jessica has been a wonderful addition, supporting all of the work we do with skill and a thoughtful approach.
  • The Pink Book Conference, which the Immunization Team hosted in September, was a sold-out event that brought together 450+ colleagues from around the state to learn, network, and strengthen relationships.
  • The Immunity Community, our program that engages parents as immunization-positive advocates in the spaces where their children spend time, expanded into a truly statewide program, with active communities in Spokane, Thurston, Snohomish, Kitsap, and Whatcom Counties.
  • We developed an HPV educational webinar for healthcare providers.  This webinar shares the latest communication science around vaccines and encourages a strong HPV vaccine recommendation and has been taken by over 700 healthcare providers.
  • WithinReach began hosting the HPV Task Force, a collective of partners statewide that are convening to collaborate on promoting HPV vaccine uptake and series completion.

And in 2016, we look forward to:

  • The continued expansion of the Immunity Community.
  • Re-energizing the Vax Northwest work with healthcare providers, hopefully developing a new research project focused on provider-parent communication.
  • Learning more about what drives parent decision-making about vaccines in Washington State, and where we might best intervene through focus groups across the state.
  • Extending the stellar work of our Spokane Regional Health District partners to provide mobile immunization clinics and other tools to improve immunization record-keeping statewide.
  • Restructuring the Immunization Action Coalition of Washington’s committees to better align with needs in the state.
  • Connecting with current and new partners to promote HPV vaccine uptake.

To the exceptional Immunization Team at WithinReach, thank you for being so proactive and skilled in producing work of an outstanding caliber.  To all of our partners with whom we collaborate on these successes, thank you for your great work independently and with us!

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy New Year!

Tags: Community Health   HPV vaccine   Immunity Community   Immunization Action Coalition of Washington   immunizations   preventable diseases   vaccines   Washington state   WithinReach   

Big transitions are tough–reach out for help!

Written by Joi Huie, Outreach & Enrollment Specialist
Fall is upon us! While retailers are pushing us to think about pumpkin-spice everything, many of us have our minds on the increasing heat bill, and the grocery budget. This was the case for Aaron, who submitted a request for food assistance on our ParentHelp123 website over the weekend. On Monday morning I received Aaron’s request. I didn’t know what his circumstances were, but I was prepared to call and do a quick screening over the phone to let Aaron know if he might be eligible for a few different assistance programs and connect him to food resources.

Around noon I gave Aaron a call because he mentioned that he was available for contact during his lunch hour. Once we were on the phone, I quickly found out that he and his wife were new parents and newly on a single income. His wife had taken extended leave to stay at home with their baby for the first few months. I also learned that this new dad was a full time student at the local technical college. This family was undergoing a lot of big changes at once, and I could tell that they were overwhelmed. Aaron let me know that they didn’t plan on needing assistance for very long – just a little help during this new transition period. After the brief screening, it appeared that Aaron’s household was likely eligible for Basic Food, Washington’s food assistance program. He was interested in pursuing Basic Food benefits so we took a few more minutes and completed the application together over the phone.

Amidst this new, exciting time in their lives Aaron and his wife found some financial stress. Aaron mentioned that with the single income they would really have to keep an eye on their expenses. He wanted to mitigate some of the challenges that would come with supporting his family on tight budget: “I don’t want to have to choose between money for gas and money for food, you know?” Aaron made it clear that one area of expenditure he did not want to worry about was proper nutrition for his family.

It can be difficult discussing “money problems” or financial instability, let alone conveying that you may be facing food insecurity. Aaron admitted that it was tough to even acknowledge a need, but he was open to receiving information about local resources and finding out if Basic Food was an option for his family. Basic Food and programs like it exist to help people when they are vulnerable— at WithinReach, we all believe that people like Aaron should never have to worry about how to put food on the table.

Our team is extremely knowledgeable about Washington’s Basic Food program and eligibility criteria. We’re happy to walk you through the process of applying for Basic Food. We make it simple and streamlined – you can complete your application over the phone with us, and go to your local DSHS office the very next day for your interview.

To find out if you might be eligible for Basic Food, call our Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or check out our Benefit Finder.

Tags: Basic Food   benefit programs   Family Health Hotline   food   food stamps   ParentHelp123   Washington state   WithinReach   

Open enrollment is here!

November 1st marks the start of open enrollment for health insurance! This is great news for many Washington families who have been waiting for the opportunity to enroll into affordable, comprehensive health insurance. Open enrollment means that you can shop for and enroll in the right health insurance plan for you and your family. If you want coverage that begins on January 1st, you must enroll by December 23rd. So don’t wait! Open enrollment closes on January 31st.The WithinReach Family Health Hotline is here to help you navigate the process of applying for and helping you enroll into the plan that will meet your needs. Here are some things to consider before selecting and purchasing a plan:
 

What do you need out of a Health Plan?

Health Plans are not one size fits all. If you plan on using your coverage only for preventive care, you may think that the cheapest plan is the best fit. But accidents happen—and they can lead to hefty out-of-pocket costs depending on the type of plan that you purchased. If you have existing health conditions or take prescription drugs, there are certain plans that can help keep your money right where it belongs: in your pocket. It can be helpful to think through all that you need from your health insurance before beginning the enrollment process so you end up with the best plan for you.

You may be eligible for subsidies to help you pay your premiums.

Worried about how having health insurance would impact your budget? You may be eligible for tax subsidies (also known as tax credits). Tax subsidies can help lower the cost of your monthly premium. You can apply these credits to your premium amount right away so that your monthly health insurance payment is affordable.

More plans means more competition–and that is a WIN for you and your budget!

There are a lot more plans to choose from this open enrollment period. Competition between these plans means that many plan premiums are lower that they were at last open enrollment. You should shop around even if you are already enrolled in a Health Plan. Even if you think your health plan is great, check out the other plans that are out there. Chances are, you will find a plan that is better and at a lower cost than the amount that you are already paying.

Avoid getting fined for not having health insurance.

Don’t pay a penalty for not having insurance coverage for you and your family. The fine for not having insurance in 2016 can cost you as much as $695 per uninsured person in your household or 2.5% of your yearly household income. That means that when you file your income taxes, the amount that you pay the IRS could increase fast! And if you anticipate a refund at tax time, the penalty can lower the amount that would otherwise go back into your pocket.

You may be eligible for free coverage today!

Depending on your income and other factors, you could qualify for immediate coverage. Washington Apple Health coverage is comprehensive and free, and will cover you today!

How can the WithinReach Family Health Hotline help?

Enrolling in a health plan can be confusing. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff can help you make sense of your options and apply for coverage for you and your family. Not only can we get you enrolled into affordable medical coverage over the phone, but we can also help you access other programs that can help you and your family stay healthy. Don’t hesitate to call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

 

 

Tags: ACA   Affordable Care Act   Family Health Hotline   health insurance   Health insurance enrollment   Open Enrollment   Washington Apple Health   WithinReach   

Back to school…every day!

As our daughter, Mari, gets ready to start her sophomore year of high school, we are preparing ourselves for another year of learning. New experiences, new challenges, and yes, the back to school forms and the endless school lunches!   Through it all, I sense her excitement.
Preparing for her next year of learning makes me reflect on my own learning during my first year as CEO at WithinReach.  I have learned a great deal in the 16 years I have worked at WithinReach, but I have learned more about what makes this incredible organization excel in the last 12 months than ever before.  I want to share just a few of my learnings with you now; I hope they resonate with you when you think of us.

Leadership legacy is a gift.  I started my new role with the recognition that I was stepping into it on the heels of amazing leaders – the women who envisioned, started, and grew WithinReach.  Over the last year, I have channeled them often, AND I have learned from each and every member of our Board, all of whom have become teachers and guides for me.  For 27 years, WithinReach has been blessed with the strength of smart, committed leaders.   This history of strong leadership provides the vision, strategy, and stability we need to serve more families each year.

Trust is key. Over the last year, I have learned that the key to our success is trust.  Do the families we serve every day trust that we will make the connections they need to live healthy lives? Do our donors trust that we will help them fulfill their vision for a healthier Washington?  Do staff trust that their supervisors will help them do their best and more? Does the Board trust me to build on the successes of the past? I believe the answer is yes, because we are an organization that values integrity, quality, and compassion – all important pieces to building trust.

Plans are only as a good as they are nimble. As we continue to work our 3-year strategic plan, it is clear that our plans must bend and sway to match our ever-changing world.  Our vision is a constant: everything we do is aimed at ensuring that all families have quality health care and adequate nutritious food to eat.  And yet, when a measles outbreak hits like it did this year, we must be ready to respond – to redouble our efforts to ensure that every child in Washington is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.  It is our nimble, innovative, dynamic nature that makes us a true agent for change.

The CEO role is exciting and exhausting. It goes without saying that the CEO role is a big one, and my days are busier than ever before.  They are busy because the opportunities to improve the health of all families in our state are beyond measure, and because the staff at WithinReach stand ready to examine, develop and implement each opportunity.  Our smart, caring, and committed staff push themselves harder every day to make the connections WA families need to be healthy. I can only follow their lead.

One thing I know for sure… if my second year as CEO is anything like my first, I will learn new things each day.   So, here’s to going back to school…every day!

 

 

Tags: Back to School   CEO   Public Health   Washington state   WithinReach   

Do You Believe in Magic?

Dr. Paul A. Offit’s book Do you Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine examines the $34-billion-a-year business known as alternative medicine. Dr. Offit is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and a vocal advocate for immunizations.

Dr. Offit understands the allure of alternative medicine and begins with the story of his own disappointing experiences utilizing the modern healthcare system. He gets multiple incorrect diagnoses, including one which led him to believe he was dying from a fatal illness for two years. In another incident, he awoke from what he had been assured would be minor knee surgery to learn that it had been a major surgery which would take a year to recover from. Offit says, “the miscalculation didn’t seem to surprise or upset the orthopedist. But it upset me.” Through misadventures and mixed advice, Offit looks into the chasm between modern and alternative medicine.

Offit argues that the popularity of media celebrities who promote alternative therapies, such as Dr. Mehmet Oz, comes from their offer of “an instruction book for something that doesn’t come with instructions: life.” These superstars, as he calls them, claim that following their advice will enable you to live longer, love better, and raise happier children. Who doesn’t want the playbook for how to live life? Unfortunately, this playbook is often full of medicine that doesn’t work.

One chapter is dedicated to the myth that vaccines cause autism, a belief propagated by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy. Offit doesn’t fault parents for searching for a cause for their child’s autism. He understands how easy it is for parents to believe in untested theories and describes how the unfounded fear of vaccines has allowed a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States and incited parents to fear vaccines more than the diseases they prevent.

Part of the appeal of alternative medicine is that it is personalized. Offit acknowledges that modern medicine often leaves a patient feeling more like a number than an individual. He recognizes how the fluidity of modern medicine can be unsettling, highlighting that many alternative medicines have remained unchanged for hundreds even thousands of years, which begs the question: Haven’t we increased our knowledge of human anatomy and disease over these years?

The continual evolution of modern medicine should be comforting. We are constantly learning and applying that knowledge to medicine, which in turn adapts – resulting in new and changing treatments and recommendations.

Paul Offit is a supporter of medicine that works – he does not discriminate against type of medicine, whether alternative or conventional, he only distinguishes between medicine that can be proven to work and medicine that only pretends. Offit argues that proper evaluation of all medicine is paramount. With over 40 pages of notes and selected bibliography, Offit uses the platinum standard in scientific reasoning—a case-control study—to make his point. If the treatment proves to make a difference in comparison to its control than he simply calls it medicine that works. Summing up the timely takeaway message of the book, he writes:

 “Although conventional therapies can be disappointing, alternative therapies shouldn’t be given a free pass. I learned that all therapies should be held to the same high standard of proof; otherwise we’ll continue to be hoodwinked by healers who ask us to believe in them rather than in the science that fails to support their claims. And it’ll happen when we’re most vulnerable, most willing to spend whatever it takes for the promise of a cure.”

Tags: alternative medicine   Autism   Dr. Paul Offit   immunizations   preventable diseases   Public Health   vaccines   WithinReach   

Transformative Generosity

“I know that donations to WithinReach are very wise investments in our children and families, and I appreciate the hard work and dedication you all put into the work of the organization.”

This was a long-standing donor and friend of WithinReach—Carolyn Gleason’s—response when we called to thank her for fulfilling her annual pledge, and to ask her if she would continue to support our work on behalf of kids and families.   Her answer over the phone was:  “Of course!”, and then she sent the follow-up message above.

We were so pleased by her response, because this is exactly how we would like our supporters to think of us: as a ‘good investment.”   A wonderful book titled “The Generosity Network” describes that ‘true generosity is rooted in relatedness.’  The authors note that all of us have vision for a better world; it is when we are able to connect with individuals and organizations who share our vision that real transformation happens in the world.

WithinReach makes the connections Washington families need to be healthy – and our connection with Carolyn and others like her are some of the most important connections we make on behalf of children and families.

Through our connection, we are investing in healthy communities, one family at a time.

 

Tags: Washington state   WithinReach   

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