Director's Corner: Looking Back on the Center's 2019 Highlights

Photo credits: Bruce Gore and Andrew Noh

As 2019 draws to a close, I’m pleased to share some highlights from the Center’s work. In a year which saw continued attacks on the safety net for low-income people, I am proud of the work we’ve done together to make health care more responsive to the needs of the people it serves – particularly those with the most complex health and social needs.

In the beginning of the year, we laid out five policy areas we are emphasizing in our work: better addressing patients’ and communities’ social needs; incorporating robust consumer engagement; improving coverage and care for beneficiaries who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid; developing sustainable mechanisms for financing long-term care services; and advancing primary care. You can read more here about how we are approaching these five areas of work and why we are focusing our efforts in these areas.

In the spring, we reported on the impact of our work to date through two key reports. The first is “IMPACT! How Consumers Have Shaped Health System Delivery Reform” which captures how a strong consumer and community voice has improved policies and programs for people with complex health and social needs. The second is the evaluation of Consumer Voices for Innovation, our two-year program to engage people with complex needs in shaping health policies and programs. This evaluation showed that over two years, our partners in this program reached nearly 30,000 consumers, trained over 1,000 of those for leadership activities and that programs in every state incorporated changes recommended by consumers.

But some impact can’t be captured in numbers. To tell the power and importance of consumer advocacy, we released a video this summer about families in Tennessee who are working to improve services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through their advocacy around a new state Medicaid program.

Over the course of this year and next, we are working with subgrantees in seven states to organize consumers to expand the ways health systems are addressing food, transportation and housing in their communities. And through the support of the Kresge Foundation, we began work this fall with three subgrantees from historically marginalized or disadvantaged communities to train grassroots leaders and pursue state and local policies that increase health care investment in community-driven priorities. This work builds on previous efforts in three communities to engage hospitals through community benefit, and I’m excited to see this next phase of groundbreaking local work unfold.

To end the year, our research director, Marc Cohen, testified before the Senate Finance Committee about the importance of long-term care. Meanwhile, we released findings from focus groups with consumers with complex needs to better understand their experiences with and attitudes about primary care, and the intersection between the primary care relationship and social determinants of health.

And finally, we were thrilled to meet with so many partners in Washington, D.C. in November to share ideas, make connections and strengthen our work together. While in Washington, we had the chance to recognize four individuals who are working tirelessly to improve the health of their communities through the announcement of our 2019 Speak Up for Better Health Awards. This year’s winner, Germán Parodi, is a leading disability rights advocate in Pennsylvania who is working to ensure people with disabilities and older adults have equal access to emergency and disaster resources before, during and after disasters. You can read more about Germán and meet our three outstanding honorees here.

As we approach the end of 2019, I am filled with gratitude for our colleagues, our fellow advocates, our partners and our champions. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to ensuring that our health system meets the needs of vulnerable consumers and communities, even in a time when some of our most fundamental values are under attack. Thank you for being part of the Center family.

I wish you peaceful, restful holidays and look forward to working with you in the new year.