Chicago nonprofit brings urban farm to food desert, sowing seeds for change

(Note: This is the third in a series of videos and articles profiling the three winners of this year’s $350,000 Humana Communities Benefit grants.)

The PCC Community Wellness Center in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood was built with an all-glass front to visually demonstrate that all local residents are welcome to come in, said Robert Urso, President and CEO of the center. But he soon realized that PCC needed to do more than invite people into the building. He and his staff needed to leave the four walls of the building and really join the community.

“We’re here for the community,” Urso said of the medically underserved area, “and it’s not just to provide health care. We need to help make life better, easier.”

PCC Community Wellness Center, which recently won a $350,000 Humana Communities Benefit grant, is taking a giant step toward achieving its dream of giving back to the community by turning an 8,000-square-foot vacant lot into an urban farm that will bring fresh, affordable produce to a food desert on the west side of Chicago.

Doctors would talk to their patients about ways to create a healthier lifestyle, but local residents, many struggling with poverty-related health issues, didn’t have easy access to the fresh fruits and vegetables that they needed to improve their diets, said Urso.
The Humana Communities Benefit grant provided the center with an opportunity to make its dream come true, said Urso. The grant will be used to design and build the farm and train those who will sustain it.

PCC has 11 centers and has deep roots in all of the communities it serves and places a priority on employing local residents, such as Tyrise Brinson, Healthy Start Specialist at the Austin center and a passionate advocate for the farm and her neighborhood.

“I believe this will change the fabric of the community,” said Brinson. “It’s huge.

“There’s a seed that’s planted and then something beautiful sprouts from it,” she said. “And I believe that’s the same thing that’s going to happen to this community with this garden … one member at a time.”

PCC asked Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest to design and help build the farm, which will be named by local residents.

Transforming the vacant lot into a beautiful garden will also help transform the community, said Angela Mason, Director of Windy City Harvest, the urban agriculture job training program for the Chicago Botanic Garden.

In addition to the 30 raised beds where produce will grow, the farm will include an outdoor gathering space and offer opportunities for residents to be more active and get outside as they walk to and from the garden and help maintain it by weeding and raking, said Mason.

The plans also include seasonal workshops to expand knowledge about the food they are growing, classes about diet-related diseases and activities for children that promote healthier choices.

“The benefits to a community are profound,” said Mason, who explains that urban gardens can promote the growth of new relationships between neighbors who develop a shared passion in improving their own health and well-being as well as the health of their neighborhood.

The urban gardens improve diets, but they also nourish the community as whole, planting a seed of an idea that becomes a dream that grows and spreads to neighboring communities, she said.

PCC Community Wellness Center in Chicago's Austin neighborhood was built with an all-glass front to visually demonstrate that all are welcome to come in. (Photo and story by Ellen Nason)

PCC Community Wellness Center in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood was built with an all-glass front to visually demonstrate that all are welcome to come in. (Photo and story by Ellen Nason)

2014 Humana Communities Benefit Grant Winners
In addition to PCC Community Wellness Center, two other nonprofits received a $350,000 grant. To learn more about them, click on the links below.

Humana and Clinton Foundation partner to help improve health in Mississippi county

Gillian Sealy , National Director of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, announces November 19 in Natchez, Mississippi, that Humana and the Clinton Foundation will partner to help improve the health of Adams County by 20 percent by 2020.

Gillian Sealy, National Director of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, announces November 19 in Natchez, Mississippi, that Humana and the Clinton Foundation will partner to help improve the health of Adams County by 20 percent by 2020.

Humana and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation Wednesday announced a partnership to help improve the health of Adams County, Mississippi, by 20 percent by 2020. The multi-year initiative from Humana and the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) will work with people in Adams County, in and around Natchez, Miss., to remove barriers to well-being and improve the health of Mississippians.

“Health Matters applauds its partner Humana and the leadership of Natchez and Adams County for their systems-change approach to address the health and well-being of its residents,” said Rain Henderson, Chief Executive Officer, Clinton Health Matters Initiative. “Using a collective impact model to engage stakeholders at all levels of this initiative ensures that there is a seat at the table for everyone and sustainable solutions can be as diverse as the citizens of their community.”

The commitment stems from a pledge made at the 2014 Clinton Health Matters Initiative conference in January of this year. Humana and the Clinton Foundation announced at that time that the two organizations would jointly select a community to improve health. This continues a partnership between the two organizations that began several years ago, with the “Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation” PGA TOUR event, and the Humana Foundation’s offering of wellness grants and website resources to 51 California schools where the Clinton Foundation’s Alliance for a Healthier Generation is active.

“We want to make it easy for people to achieve their best health,” said Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard. “In Adams County, Humana and the Clinton Foundation are committed to a multi-year partnership to co-create new health solutions with the county’s leaders and citizens. Throughout our partnership we’ll work together to build innovative solutions that can eventually be applied to communities across the country and around the world. The plan we build together will be a plan that the people of Adams County can get excited about as they work to improve their health.”

Recently, the partners agreed to focus their efforts on Mississippi, a state that faces more health challenges than most. Adams County continues to demonstrate some of the poorest health outcomes in the state, and like many areas throughout the United States, the county has seen an increase in the number of people suffering from poor health and facing barriers to improvement. In the face of these challenges, leaders in Adams County want to drive change and have shown an openness to trying fresh approaches to healthy living and disease prevention.

“We’re excited about this partnership and the great potential it holds for Adams County,” said Natchez Mayor Larry L. “Butch” Brown. “We’re looking forward to working with Humana and the Clinton Foundation, as well as leveraging our local talent and resources, to empower the people of this community to improve their health and well-being.”

Humana and the Clinton Foundation are both already engaged in significant work in Mississippi.

One year ago, when the state faced a potential health insurance challenge Humana deployed the “Covering Mississippi” initiative to give residents more information about their health plan options under the Affordable Care Act. The Covering Mississippi tour provides free, private health insurance education and enrollment assistance to residents in local communities and is continuing this year.

The Clinton Foundation is active in the state through the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program and the Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, works to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and to empower kids to develop lifelong, healthy habits.

Related articles and videos:

Humana tops list of “Best USA Health Care Companies to Work For”

Humana is the best health care company to work for, according to Healthcare Global.

Healthcare Global’s top 10 list puts Humana in the top spot followed, in order, by Mayo Clinic, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, UnitedHealth Group, Cerner, Cleveland Clinic, Providence Health & Services Northwest Region, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

In its announcement of the top 10, Healthcare Global noted that Humana earned a 100 percent score on the 2014 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, which recognized the company for policies and practices encouraging workplace diversity and inclusion. Humana’s initiatives for veterans and military families were also highlighted.

Up2Us: Coach-mentors using power of sports to transform children’s lives

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On most evenings, Raul Alcala, 16, can be found at the Chicago Youth Boxing Club, exercising and training with his coach, Gabriel Navarro. Raul, a Junior Olympian, is a talented and dedicated athlete who takes his training seriously, but his main focus is not on winning competitions in the ring. It’s about staying fit, getting an education and gaining self-awareness, confidence and discipline. It’s about learning life skills that will help him make better decisions and become resilient so he can handle any punches that life may throw his way.

All around him boys and girls of varying ages are exercising, working on homework and learning lessons that could change the course of their lives, breaking a cycle of violence, fear and limited options.

They meet in the basement of LaVillita Community Church in Little Village, a Chicago neighborhood that has faced more than its share of challenges, including gang-related violence that has created long-term trauma and stress for those growing up there. The church and the boxing club offer a calming sanctuary from the day-to-day stress and help bring the community together.

Navarro, who grew up in the neighborhood, has always had an interest in sports, teaching and helping his community. A Humana Foundation grant awarded to Up2Us in Chicago gave Navarro a new opportunity to use his passion and skills to support the underserved youth in his community. Navarro became a participant in Coach Across America, an Up2Us national service program that immerses coach-mentors in intensive training in youth development, nutrition, trauma-sensitivity and education.

The Chicago Youth Boxing Club meets in the LaVillita Community Church. (Photo and story by Ellen Nason)

The Chicago Youth Boxing Club meets in the LaVillita Community Church. (Photo and story by Ellen Nason)

Up2Us, whose mission is to advance sports as a solution to the critical challenges facing America’s youth, has demonstrated success with the Coach Across America program. The majority of coaches, who work with local organizations within their own communities in a wide variety of sports, say that the training has helped them better connect sports to life skills that the youth they serve need to succeed and to build stronger relationships. Data also shows significant improvement in the physical activity levels of the participants in the youth programs led by coaches who received the training.

Navarro said the training has helped him to bring calm to stressful situations and demonstrate peaceful methods for resolving conflict, which is particularly important in urban areas that are violence-prone.

The training has been transformative and helped him change his thought processes, he said.

“The kids open up more to me,” said Navarro. “They are more engaged and understand that walking away is a better option than confrontation or giving in to peer pressure.”

He is also more aware of the need to create opportunities for new experiences and to emphasize the importance of inclusivity. He is passionate about pulling his community together and building stronger relationships is a priority.

“It’s family here,” said Navarro. “We want them hanging out here rather than in the street. We’re changing the game.”

“We don’t want to just be a boxing club,” said Victor Rodriguez, pastor at LaVillita Community Church, “We’re not just looking for the next (boxing) champion.” Instead, Rodriguez said, the focus is on academics, better nutrition, team building, youth development, serving the community and learning compassion. “It’s about the kids – and a better future.”

Rodriguez said he has seen growth in Navarro since he completed his Coach Across America training, and believes he is an even stronger role model for the boys and girls in the boxing club, who are showing their own growth with better decision-making and time management, asking for help when needed and seeing their own value as they set goals for the future.

The coaches in the basement of the Little Village Church are helping the kids get fit and develop boxing skills, but it is not about fighting for a victory in the ring. They are fighting for positive change and to end the violence. They are fighting for a better, healthier future. They are changing the game – and there are no losers.

50th playground: Celebrating community, healthier futures – and the pure joy of play

A shared passion and commitment to help communities become stronger, healthier and happier led Humana and KaBOOM! to form a three-year partnership in 2011 that has resulted in 50 new playgrounds being built. The 50th playground was completed October 25 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and two more will be built in November as part of the 2014 fall playground tour.

The playgrounds, which feature traditional kid-friendly equipment as well as walking paths and fitness stations for adults, are built in only six hours by volunteers and create a space for families and communities to gather to enjoy fun, healthy activity.

The power of volunteerism and of communities working together for a better future is demonstrated at every playground build. Watch the video above and check out the articles below to learn more about the three-year partnership – and to catch a glimpse of the pure joy of play.

Related links:

mmLearn.org: Providing education, support to caregivers


 (Note: This is the second in a series of videos and articles profiling the three winners of this year’s $350,000 Humana Communities Benefit grants.)

Those with Alzheimer’s face a long, lonely and uncertain journey, often falling into deep depression as the disease robs them of their memories and independence. The sense of loss and severed connections takes a profound and devastating physical and emotional toll on those battling the disease as well as their family and caregivers.

Joyce Hernandez, a professional caregiver for a man with Alzheimer’s, was struggling to understand the baffling and heart-breaking stages of the progressive disease. Her intense focus on improving the quality of his life, made her lose sight of the physical and emotional toll that the disease was having on her and her loved ones. Her need to understand what her client was going through led her to mmLearn.org, where she found the help they both needed.

The program was created in 2007 by San Antonio nonprofit Morningside Ministries, which recently was named one of three winners of a $350,000 Humana Communities Benefit grant. In keeping with Morningside Ministries’ mission to “care for those who cared for us,” mmLearn.org offers free online training and support to those who are caring for older adults.

Joyce Hernandez, of San Antonio, said mmLearn.org is an educational resource that is making an impact on people's lives and helping her in her job as a caregiver.

Joyce Hernandez, a caregiver in San Antonio, said mmLearn.org is an educational resource that is making an impact on people’s lives.

“I had no idea there were so many free videos to view …  from learning how to use a walker to Alzheimer’s… it’s endless,” said Hernandez, who sees the fact that the on-demand training is always available as particularly important for caregivers who may need help in the middle of the night or have severe time constraints.

She said Alzheimer’s education offered by mmLearn.org helped her realize that she could best help her client by “going into his world,” rather than struggling for answers during some of the more frustrating times, such as when he would ask to go home although he was sitting in his home. She said the video helped reopen communication and brought comfort and relief to both of them.

It also helped her recognize her own emotional trauma and growing depression as she cared for her client around the clock, not trusting others to care for him as well as she would.

“I cared so much … but I began to withdraw from my own family and friends,” she said. “My husband expressed concerns so I went to the website and looked up caregiver stress. I realized that I had all the symptoms.

“Without the videos, I wouldn’t have known I needed help … I needed to take care of myself,” she added. Even though it was the hardest thing she ever had to do, she had to step away to regain her own health. Another caregiver is now working with the client with Alzheimer’s but Hernandez stays in contact with him while working as a caregiver for others.

“I am happy and found peace,” said Hernandez. “My family is happy to have me back. This program has had a big impact in my life. It has been truly a blessing.”

Alvin Loewenberg is President and CEO of Morningside Ministries in San Antonio, Texas.

Alvin Loewenberg is President and CEO of Morningside Ministries in San Antonio, Texas.

“mmLearn.org is our way of serving the caregiver,” said Alvin Loewenberg, President and CEO of Morningside Ministries, a nonprofit founded in San Antonio, Texas, in 1961 that offers facilities for older adults seeking independent living, skilled nursing, assisted living and rehabilitation.

“The real mission is to make life better” for people, said Loewenberg. With mmLearn.org, a program that includes 300 topics and has already been used by people in 98 countries, caregivers are given the tools and resources to help older adults stay in their own home longer and be cared for properly, he added.

Loewenberg said it is an honor to receive the Humana Communities Benefit grant, which offers an opportunity for the nonprofit to continue broadening its reach.

“It’s a great opportunity for mmLearn.org and a great gift to the community,” he said, adding that the grant allows the nonprofit to do much more to make a real difference in people’s lives.

Related links:

It’s Time to Act on Physician Disillusionment

BB LII blog 2

In a series of LinkedIn Influencer blog posts, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard shares insights and ideas about the future of health care and discusses the importance of working together to improve the health-care system as well as our own health and well-being. His topics range from the powerful potential of technology to the issue of loneliness. His latest, It’s Time to Act on Physician Disillusionment, is reprinted below. To see all of his blog posts, click here.

Bruce_Broussard_MEDIres.jpg WYou’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.”

This overused, one-dimensional rallying cry has been thrown around for years. But it’s not that simple. We often find in life that in order to solve a problem, we cannot look at an issue in terms of black or white and ignore the many shades of gray. In most cases, aren’t we all part of the solution as well as being part of the problem?

Take health care. We have many serious challenges: primary care physician shortage, baby boomer retirement, childhood obesity, you name it. Solving these challenges requires a team effort. If you want to talk about what’s wrong with health care today, be prepared to address what you can do to make it better.

A Welcome Voice
It’s always refreshing when the people we entrust with our health and well-being – physicians – offer their perspectives on not only what we need to do to improve health care, but where they see needed changes within their own roles.

Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, the director of the Heart Failure Program at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, does an exceptional job breaking down the challenges that physicians face in our country. His article was adapted from “Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician,” a book he recently authored and one I’m looking forward to reading.

In this article, Dr. Jauhar, a cardiologist, provides a detailed, historical analysis of the evolution of the American physician and the low morale and burnout that face the profession today.

What Intrigued Me
Dr. Jauhar spends a great deal of time examining the challenges facing the physician community and his historical analysis also details the positive impact physicians have made on society. For starters, he describes the advances medicine has made in reducing the common diseases of the past. More specifically, he talks about the impact of vaccines and how “once-terminal diseases—cancer, AIDS, congestive heart failure— are turning into complex chronic conditions that must be managed over the long term.”

When you think about the significant progress physicians have made in this area, these advances have given millions of people affected by these deadly diseases new hope. We still have a long way to go when it comes to curing these diseases but unquestionably the expert care from physicians has changed the game.

But how is the new focus on dealing with these long-term chronic conditions changing the health care system, changing the physician’s role, changing society? The economic and emotional burden alone is overwhelming. Where do we go from here? We’re all part of the problem – and part of the solution.

The Primary Care Physician Role
For example, if you think about why some physicians are unhappy, some believe it has to do with the notion that they don’t feel like they’re in control, don’t feel deeply engaged or are actively participating in the entire decision process, and payers can certainly do more to help. Some also speculate that this reflects a high level of despair in the physician community.

Take the primary care physician community. In my conversations with one physician who was also intrigued by Dr. Jauhar’s article, he believes there is a – his words – “significant level of despair” among the primary care physician community. His opinion is that some primary care physicians feel that “my responsibilities are diminished since other people are making decisions for me.”

We need to ensure that these highly intelligent primary care physicians feel empowered to participate; have the accountability they so desire; and are responsible and accountable for their patients’ care and well-being. Participation, accountability and responsibility must be the foundation for ensuring that primary care physicians have the support they need from us to best serve their patients.

What I Need to Do
Dr. Jauhar’s article highlights how the fee-for-service reimbursement system needs to change because the current patient population needs a more holistic-care approach versus one that is transaction-driven. His article also led me to think about comments made by Dr. Henry S. Lodge and Chris Crowley in their book – “Younger Next Year.” In the book, Dr. Lodge also provided a valuable insight into the transaction-driven nature of fee-for-service and the importance of holistic health:

  • “I had done what doctors do well in this country, which is to treat people when they come in with a disease. My patients had had good medical care but not, I began to think, great health care. For most, their declines, their illnesses, were thirty-year problems of lifestyle, not disease…Modern medicine does not concern itself with lifestyle problems…Most modern medicine is what lawyers and bankers call transactional: a one-shot deal. You blow out your knee, you have a heart attack, and you see a specialist. A short, intensive period of repair or cure follows, and the parties go their separate ways, probably forever.”

After I read Dr. Jauhar’s article, I began to think about the role my industry plays in health care and my own discussions with the physicians who serve my company’s members. We’re focused on becoming a company that puts the primary care physician at the center of the patient’s care, through pay-for-value models, such as Accountable Care, that help support a holistic approach to better health.

With this approach, physicians are reimbursed for the overall health of their patients and incentivized for outcomes, not interventions. Our industry is making solid progress on moving toward these value-based agreements, but we still have a long way to go. We’ll continue to implement the pay-for-value models because they work.

For example, Medicare Advantage uses the principles of Accountable Care to help millions of seniors get on the path to better health through aligned incentives.

  • Accountable Care has demonstrated clear benefits with a reduction in emergency room visits and improvements in diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure management.
  • Physicians moving from the transactional-driven system of fee-for-service to Accountable Care have an ally in this evolution that can provide an insight into an individual’s holistic health: the payer. From value-based payments models to an individual’s claims, payers have the clinical and technological means to help support the primary care physician with a 360-degree complete snapshot of the individual’s health through sharing information in a secure manner.
  • At the same time, we can also help primary care physicians transition into a value-based payment model by supporting their compliance efforts for meeting quality measure and clinical guidelines and other Population Health tools.

It Takes a Team
There are other areas my industry needs to prioritize:

The Importance of Empathy – One of the examples that grabbed my attention was how Dr. Jauhar described an encounter with a patient on dialysis who had been informed by another doctor, in an “insensitive” manner, that he had no chance of his kidneys returning to normal.

  • Some of us have been in a room with a loved one who has been told devastating news about his or her health. It’s not easy for the patients, their loved ones, or the physician. We must ask ourselves – at every point in the care process – what we can do to better support those fighting a battle for their life.

Let’s Help Physicians – In his article, Dr. Jauhar cites this ER physician’s comment posted on Sermo, an online community of physicians: “Working up patients in the ER these days involves shotguning multiple unnecessary tests (everybody gets a CT!) despite the fact that we know they don’t need them, and being aware of the wastefulness of it all really sucks the love out of what you do.”

  • I need to be very clear on this point. It’s not about taking a blanket approach. It’s about trusting the doctor about what tests that he or she feels are ·  necessary to do–or not do–to help improve the patient’s overall health. If the primary care physician is to serve as the central role player, he or she must be seen as the quarterback when it comes to patient responsibility. They are the ones coordinating the approach to the patient’s health; ensuring that the clinical decisions that are made are done in the best interest of the patient; and, most importantly, feel empowered to manage the care of the patient by doing what they believe is right.
  • Investments in information technology are also important because they help make it easier for the physician to have a true 360-degree view of the patient, a critical factor in advancing holistic care. When you look at holistic care, aligned incentives are also critical because physicians are being rewarded for improving their patients’ overall health.
  • As I stated earlier, payers like me can help primary care physicians in their quest to experience the benefits of Accountable Care. We can keep helping these primary care physicians move into these arrangements through this holistic-driven approach, combined with a detailed plan to transition to value-based reimbursement.

Reduce – and Simplify – Administrative Tasks – We live in an era of technology that has transformed entire industries. The health care industry needs to step up and let the transformative power of technology improve and simplify the back-office processes so physicians can spend more quality time with their patient and less time on administrative tasks.

  • Using electronic submissions for all claims and referrals will be a step in the right direction. For example, Dr. Jauhar talks about how most physicians “said they didn’t have enough time to spend with patients because of paperwork.” Given the importance of electronic health records (EHR), EHRs can potentially enable physicians to streamline the paperwork, thus enabling them to spend more time with their patients.
  • Lastly, as an industry, we need interoperability. We can start by linking all of the electronic health care systems to simplify the life of the physician. Too often physicians are burdened dealing with disparate systems. By linking these systems, it’s not only good for the physician, but it also helps the patient (the physician has more time to spend with the patient) and it benefits society because these systems can help reduce costs. Physicians who are engaged and serving as active participants in the process will not only be happier and less disillusioned but the burnout rate will diminish.

Keeping people at home instead of in a home also helps our physician community. For example, leveraging technologies like telemedicine can help people with chronic conditions, some of whom don’t have the resources to travel for care, engage with the physician from their own home. We can do more by creating new programs and expanding existing programs that help those with chronic conditions live safely and comfortably in their own homes.

We are finding that one such program is doing just that. Not only are members telling us that this program, which utilizes in-home visits and personal care managers, is enhancing their health and well-being, but we are also seeing fewer hospitalizations and readmissions among its participants.

We All Have a Role
Dr. Jauhar writes that “medicine is about taking care of people in their most vulnerable states and making yourself somewhat vulnerable in the process.” Regardless of whether or not we work directly in health care, each of us plays a role in improving the physician/patient relationship.

The next time you go to see your primary care physician, don’t just let him or her ask you about your health. Take the time to ask them what you can do to make it easier for them to get you on the path to better health. Listen to them and then take action: eat better, exercise more, reduce stress, spend more time with family and friends…do what is necessary to enhance your own health and well-being.

We must empower our primary care physicians – the quarterbacks – so they truly feel they’re fully accountable, responsible and have the freedom to act in the patient’s best interest. They are in full control of their destiny, plain and simple. If these primary care physicians feel that they’re part of the process, they’re going to help more people get on the path to better health. It’s much better for the patient, the physician, and true engagement from the primary care physician community as a whole.

We can all make it easier on these physicians by practicing what we preach when it comes to good health. By simply making better lifestyle choices, we can alleviate the burden of chronic diseases, many of which are preventable and account for roughly 75 percent of our annual health care spend in the U.S.

Despite all the challenges we face in health care, it’s important to remember that we have the best physicians in the world. They’ve changed the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans for the better. We never want the word “disillusioned” to be associated with the people who care for our families and friends.

Veggie Rx: Prescription for better health

 

Fresh Stop KMP

Karyn Moskowitz’s passion for providing everyone access to good, affordable food led her to form New Roots in 2009, sowing seeds for healthy change in lower-income areas in Louisville, Kentucky. Five years later, the people living in those areas are reaping the rewards of having access to locally grown produce as they work together to make their communities stronger and healthier.

New Roots has worked with several local communities to open weekly or bi-weekly Fresh Stops, where local farmers provide organic produce at low prices in lower-income “food deserts,” which are areas that do not offer easy access to fresh, nutritious and affordable foods. The community participants pool their resources, buying shares that entitle them to a large quantity of fresh food delivered to a neighborhood location by local farmers, who gain a stable market for their products. The cost of the shares range from $12 to $25 and are based on income. A typical Fresh Stop delivery includes 10-15 items, such as tomatoes, carrots, kale, lettuce, squash, watermelon, corn, cabbage, peppers or okra. The items vary, depending on season and availability.

Nathaniel Spencer, a Fresh Stop shareholder and lifelong resident of the Shawnee neighborhood in Louisville, said he has seen positive change in the community because of the program.

“We needed this,” he said recently while helping sort produce delivered by Andre Barbour of Barbour Farms. “It’s a no-brainer if you care about people. The neighborhood is excited… we love the fresh food and the fellowship.”

Some of the produce available at a recent Fresh Stop is displayed on a table. (Photo by Ellen Nason)

Some of the produce available at a recent Fresh Stop is displayed on a table. (Photo by Ellen Nason)

The Fresh Stops, which are run by the shareholders and local volunteers, provide nutritious food and a place for community residents to gather, learn and renew relationships  – or form new ones. Spencer said one shareholder, who is in her 80s, rekindled a childhood friendship. The two women had not seen each other in decades until meeting at the local Fresh Stop even though they both lived in the neighborhood. He also gave examples of health improvements, such as a young man who has lost more than 80 pounds in the three years he has had access to a healthier diet.

The success of the Fresh Stops, now feeding 550 families, has led to the creation of Veggie Rx, a pilot program with a goal of broadening the reach and health benefits of the farmer’s markets. The unique, multigenerational program is administered by New Roots and supported through a Humana Foundation grant. Its goal is to encourage lifelong well-being in families who spend time together in fun, healthful activities such as:

  • Cooking classes, using produce and meat provided by the same local farmers who provide the produce for New Roots’ Fresh Stops
  • Physical activity with a personal trainer
  • Food justice classes

The pilot, divided into two sessions held on six successive Monday evenings, also provides the participating families with a “prescription” for a free share of produce at a Fresh Stop. The prescription for nutritious food has the same goal as a prescription for medication: improve health and help people live longer, happier lives. The program encourages families to participate and learn together, sharing an experience that will make it easier to make positive behavioral change that may prevent chronic diseases linked to poor diet and sedentary lifestyles. The program requires participation of children as part of its goal to lay the foundation for making healthier choices throughout life.

Volunteer chef Christine Brinkman gives Tania Barbour some help during a Veggie Rx cooking class. (Photo by Ellen Nason)

Volunteer chef Christine Brinkman gives Tania Barbour some help during a Veggie Rx cooking class. (Photo by Ellen Nason)

The enthusiasm of participants of all ages during a recent Veggie Rx class shows that it is certainly a realistic goal. Tania Barbour, 8, said she looks forward to Mondays and now loves to cook because she “likes seeing how the food mixtures go together.” She and her sister, Tiana, 12, were active participants in personal trainer LaKesha Perry’s exercise class as well as the cooking class, where nutritional information is given along with recipes and instruction. Leona Starks’ three grandsons, ages 4-9, and Meghan Calloway’s two children, 2 and 6, eagerly sampled all of the raw vegetables before they were added to the dish the families were making.

Calloway, whose dad and younger brother joined her and her children at Veggie Rx, said she hopes the program helps her children get an early start on a lifetime of healthy habits. She had already used a Veggie Rx prescription at a recent Fresh Stop, which she said was “awesome,” offering better quality and price than she would find elsewhere.

The first of two sessions of the pilot ended this week and is already showing positive results with one participant reporting a 20-pound weight loss during the six-week session. The next session begins Monday, October 13, at the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Louisville’s Shawnee neighborhood.

Moskowitz, who attends and participates in the Veggie Rx classes, sees the program, along with the Fresh Stops, as a way to nourish future community leaders and to keep people engaged and empowered to improve their own health and well-being.

“This is a community-driven program,” she said. “It’s their church, their family. It’s changing their lives. They come for the food but stay for the community.”

For more information about these programs or how to volunteer or donate, go to the New Roots website or contact Karyn Moskowitz at (502) 509-6770.

Digital Experience Center: Milestone in Humana’s continuing evolution

DEC

The physical workspace of Humana’s new Digital Experience Center may be unique for the company, with features more likely to be seen in a Silicon Valley office than one in Louisville, Kentucky, but the work being done in it fits perfectly with Humana’s goal of making it easier for the people living in the communities we serve to achieve their best health.

The purpose of this innovative digital software accelerator is to create and update Humana’s digital products quickly and simply while working collaboratively with the consumers who will be using them.

“It’s an exciting day,” Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard said Thursday at an event to mark the official opening of the Louisville center.

Broussard noted that it is more important than ever for the company to collaborate with its customers given the ever-changing complexities in health care. He pointed out that one of the most important factors in the innovative approach of the Digital Experience Center is the fact that Humana is “wrapping the customer around the product” by getting instant feedback from them. Consumers are brought in weekly to test and review the products being developed or updated, making them a part of the team.

“To be successful, we have to be agile,” he said. “Collaboration is part of being agile.”

One element of Humana’s new approach to product development is creating a more collaborative and empowered process for its employees as well as the consumer. The digital product designers, developers and managers work in pairs, side-by-side — sharing two keyboards for a single computer. The teams are working exclusively on digital products and with increased focus because they are limiting the daily disruptions created by the meetings, email and phone calls found in a traditional office setting. The physical setup is also a departure from the past, with workers having the option of using stand-up desks or recharging mentally and physically at the two ping pong tables in the office.

The first product released from the Digital Experience Center is the HumanaVitality mobile application, which enables users to create and measure specific, personal wellness goals (get active, eat better, lose weight or reduce stress). Humana recently announced full integration with Apple’s HealthKit for the HumanaVitality app.

The team at the Digital Experience Center is currently working on another mobile app for Humana members.

Humana integrates with Apple’s HealthKit to help improve, simplify consumer health

Humana has announced full integration with Apple’s HealthKit for HumanaVitality®, the company’s consumer health app for iPhone and iPod touch, providing users a clear and current overview of their health and fitness data.

“The simple, innovative, and easy-to-use design of the Apple Health app makes it easier for these Humana members to collectively manage their fitness data so they can improve their health,” said Bruce Broussard, Humana’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Apple is taking a significant step forward with regards to the ‘quantified self.’ As more consumers use Apple Health, the platform can also help the health care industry leverage the power of technology to further transform the consumer health experience.”

The HumanaVitality App, designed to make it easy and simple for consumers to engage with their health, enables users to create and measure specific, personal wellness goals (get active, eat better, lose weight or reduce stress). HumanaVitality rewards members for meeting these goals and for other healthy behaviors, from getting a biometrics screening to taking 10,000 physician-recommended steps a day.

HumanaVitality members who use the HumanaVitality App can upload fitness data from their favorite wearables into Apple Health and earn Vitality Points™ for hitting their health and fitness milestones. First users must choose to share data from their fitness devices to Apple Health and then grant HumanaVitality permission to read this data which is used to measure against their goals. When goals are met, users earn valuable Vitality Points™ which can be redeemed at the HumanaVitality Mall for movie tickets, fitness equipment, music downloads and more. HumanaVitality members that use the app will need to be on iOS 8.0.2.

The HumanaVitality App is available for free from the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch or at www.AppStore.com. For more information about the HumanaVitality App, watch the video above or visit this Humana website.

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