R.I. Foundation commits $1M to 10-year health plan for state

The Rhode Island Foundation has committed $1 million towards implementation of a 10-year health initiative. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND FOUNDATION
The Rhode Island Foundation has committed $1 million towards implementation of a 10-year health initiative. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND FOUNDATION

PROVIDENCE – After more than a year of poring over vast amounts of data related to the health of Rhode Islanders, the Rhode Island Foundation has a vision for the state – to see it ranked as the healthiest in the nation.

The goal tops the organization’s 10-year plan, “Health in Rhode Island: A Long Term Vision, released on Jan. 18.

RIF has committed $1 million towards implementation of the plan, which prioritizes the elimination of disparities in health care and other areas with direct effects on health.

RIF’s Long Term Health Planning Committee authored the plan during a series of meetings that began in the fall of 2018.

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In its report, committee members pointed out that although Rhode Island is a leader in some aspects, such as the percentage of children covered by health insurance, not all are benefiting.

People of color and those with lower incomes and lower levels of education are often going without proper health care, the report said, noting that infant mortality rates for black state residents are more than two and a half times that of white Rhode Islanders. People in minority groups are more likely to die prematurely from preventable or treatable conditions and less likely to have access to primary care.

“We still have disparities, even where we’re doing well,” said Neil D. Steinberg, RIF’s CEO and president. “It might be in some parts of the state, you’re doing great on those indicators, and in other parts you’re not.”

The 30-member health planning committee was overseen by Steinberg and Jane Hayward,  CEO and president of the Rhode Island Health Care Association. It included state officials such as Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the R.I. Department of Health, and Womazetta Jones, secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, CEOs of a number of health systems and health insurers, leaders of physicians’ and nurses’ associations and prominent health educators.

In addition to eliminating inequality across the health care spectrum, the committee also aims to increase access to affordable, quality health care while using resources to “maximize health and reduce waste,” according to its report.

Priorities include:

  • Providing appropriate care in appropriate settings
  • Focusing on issues that affect well-being, such as affordable housing, transportation and access to food
  • Improving behavioral health by streamlining access to and coordination of care and focusing on prevention
  • Reducing wasteful spending in order to use resources more effectively

Rhode Island-based Healthcentric Advisors has been tasked with tracking the plan’s progess. The group has laid out nearly 40 indicators that it will use to measure success. Indicator categories include health behaviors, access and affordability, clinical care, health care quality, health outcomes and health equity.

The $1 million set aside for the plan is in addition to RIF’s yearly health grant budget, and expected to support the plan for a year, Steinberg said.

“The hope is it will inspire and leverage additional funds,” he said, adding that the plan’s broad scope is meant to ignite ideas across the state’s health landscape.

No money has yet been allocated.

“We will be looking for ideas and initiatives that we identify [as supporting] the priorities in this plan, it’s not predetermined or preallocated,” Steinberg said of the funds’ distribution.  “It’s not prescriptive, it’s to jump-start and guide. These are guidelines and strategies, they’re meant to be very aspirational and inspirational.”

Elizabeth Graham is a PBN staff writer. She can be reached at graham@pbn.com. 

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