Friday, June 06, 2008

R.W. Johnson Foundation commits $300 million to improve heath in 14 areas, many with rural folks

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation committed $300 million this week to help improve the quality of health care in 14 states and regions across the U.S., many of which have large rural populations. The commitment, which RWJF said in a news release is the largest effort of its kind undertaken by a U.S. philanthropy, aims to improve health care in communities that cover 11 percent of the U.S. population. The community-focused program, known as Aligning Forces for Quality, "will list the overall quality of health care, reduce racial and ethnic disparities and provide models for national reform."

The program will work in Maine (the nation's most rural state except Vermont), Minnesota, Wisconsin, Humboldt County, Calif., the Willamette Valley of Oregon, south-central Pennsylvania, western Michigan, western New York state, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Mo., Memphis and Seattle. "They were selected as part of a highly competitive process to find communities that were positioned to make fundamental and cutting-edge changes to rebuild their health care systems," the release explained.

RWJF President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey said, “Despite having the most expensive health care system in the world, patients are subject to too many mistakes, too much miscommunication and too much inequity. As a result, too many Americans aren’t receiving the care they need and deserve. This unprecedented commitment of resources, expertise and training will turn proven practices for improving quality into real results in communities across America.”

RWJF examined Medicare claims to illustrate vast variations in health care quality across the country. Five different measures of care were examined by researchers in the 14 area. According the the RWJF news release, "Most strikingly, researchers found significant differences by race and by region in whether patients lost a leg to amputation, a complication of peripheral vascular disease and diabetes. ... The report also demonstrates significant differences in whether people get basic recommended care, such as women getting regular mammography tests or patients with diabetes getting essential blood tests." You may examine the study here.

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