Jewish Healthcare Foundation Approves $450K in Grants, Including New Funding for Healthcare Safety Innovation Competition; Certifying and Reimbursing Doulas; and Seniors’ Recreation and Exercise Program

PITTSBURGH, PA —The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF), on April 11, 2022, approved new grants for launching a Healthcare Safety Competition and Virtual Exhibit; advancing the PA Doula Commission's work; and expanding Venture Outdoors' Senior Recreation and Exercise program.

Launching the Healthcare Safety Competition and Virtual Exhibit

JHF approved a one-year grant up to $300,000 to the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI) to further support a Healthcare Safety Competition and Virtual Exhibit that aims to showcase new patient safety solutions. The competition and corresponding event will feature transformative concepts submitted by the next generation of innovators and leaders—students from undergraduate and graduate programs in health professions, biological sciences, engineering, safety science, management, machine learning, robotics, AI, data analytics, and beyond.

Through a national competition, students will be invited to submit innovative ideas to make healthcare safer by applying advanced technologies (with a focus on autonomous solutions). The winning ideas will receive rewards up to $25,000. The competition also will include a second category for schools and departments from colleges and universities that come forward with a bold, comprehensive vision for the future of patient safety. The school or department with the most powerful vision will win a $75,000 prize.

At the culmination of the competition, the winners and others with promising ideas will be invited to participate in a Virtual Exhibit that will portray a broad and inclusive vision of the future. As part of the Virtual Exhibit, current thought leaders, inventors, researchers, investors, and scientists will present their reactions, their own visions, and ideas to help the students further develop their concepts. The Virtual Exhibit will allow widespread circulation of an updated, tech-enabled vision of a safer, more reliably best-practice healthcare system and inspire a new generation of innovators.

To plan for the Healthcare Safety Competition and Virtual Exhibit, JHF will form an advisory board composed of patient safety experts and thought leaders from across the country. The advisory board will help shape the competition, assist in marketing and communications efforts, recruit universities to participate in the competition, identify judges, and suggest expert support networks for the winning students. The board will also create a series of problem statements that the students will use as prompts to respond to the competition.

"Health care lacks a bolder and safer vision of the future, especially in deploying current cutting-edge technology," said Karen Wolk Feinstein, president and CEO of JHF. "This competition will generate new solutions from the best and brightest future healthcare leaders and strengthen networks for healthcare safety innovation."

JHF and PRHI have been working to reduce medical harm for 24 years. This initiative builds on a two-year, $500,000 grant JHF awarded PRHI in December 2021 to catalyze an autonomous patient safety industry in Pittsburgh. This healthcare safety and technology project will position the Pittsburgh region as a hub of autonomous patient safety solutions and will build on the region's assets in AI, machine learning, advanced informatics, big data, predictive analytics, and life sciences innovation.

Establishing a Statewide Infrastructure to Certify and Reimburse Doulas

JHF approved a two-year grant up to $100,000 to advance the work of the PA Doula Commission to promote the certification and reimbursement recommendations established by the JHF-convened Statewide Doula & Perinatal CHW Advisory Group and to prepare the doula workforce.

Doulas are non-medical, trained professionals who provide emotional, physical, and informational support and guidance to pregnant and postpartum women. They provide continuous labor support to pregnant individuals and families, conduct perinatal and bereavement visits up to one year after birth or termination of pregnancy, accompany pregnant individuals to healthcare and social service appointments, and connect individuals to community-based resources. The majority of doula services are either grant funded, paid out of pocket, or covered in limited ways through contracts with Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs). However, because a more uniform payment structure for doula services has yet to be established in Pennsylvania, people's ability to access doula services continues to be limited.

As part of JHF's Full Court Press initiatives launched in 2021, JHF set a goal to develop a certification and reimbursement system for doulas in Pennsylvania. In just two months, a JHF-convened Statewide Doula & Perinatal CHW Advisory Group of 100 members, with leadership from the Doula Alliance sub-group, gained consensus on certification and reimbursement recommendations. The Doula Alliance's leaders then formed the PA Doula Commission as a non-profit in November 2021 and launched the certification with the PA Certification Board in February 2022.

The PA Doula Commission will next assemble an advisory board and work with partners and stakeholders to advance doula certification and reimbursement policy and implementation, and to provide scholarships, training, and technical assistance to doulas in Pennsylvania.

Expanding Venture Outdoors' Senior Recreation and Exercise Program

JHF approved a $50,000, one-year grant to Venture Outdoors as they expand their recreation and exercise programming for seniors. This funding will allow the organization to support the growing need within the senior community for social connection and physical wellbeing exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Venture Outdoors plans to hire a full-time coordinator to expand Venture Outdoors' partnerships and develop additional meaningful and engaging activities.

This grant is the latest effort in JHF's Senior Connections program, a multipronged initiative launched in 2016 to meaningfully engage and support seniors in the Pittsburgh region. Venture Outdoors was an early partner of Senior Connections, developing their Fit with a Physician program in 2017 with the leadership of Terence Starz, MD, and in partnership with the Allegheny County Medical Society and JHF to promote the importance of exercise as the best prescription for helping people age successfully.

The Fit with a Physician Program provides outdoor experiences for seniors through one-mile walks in local city and county parks, which are currently free to individuals 50 and older, funded by JHF. These walks are led by volunteer physicians, therapists, nutritionists, and other healthcare professionals who share their areas of expertise to provide an educational component emphasizing the importance of exercise, healthy living, and the amazing benefits of the outdoors. Since 2017, the program has created over 700 senior outdoor experiences and has expanded to include other outdoor activities, such as biking and kayaking classes, through the Venture Outdoors Again program.

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Available for Interviews: Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD, President and CEO, Jewish Healthcare Foundation

About the Jewish Healthcare Foundation

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) and its three operating arms — the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI), Health Careers Futures (HCF), and the Women's Health Activist Movement Global (WHAMglobal) — offer a unique brand of activist philanthropy to advance healthcare innovation, advocacy, collaboration, and education in the interest of better population health. For more information, visit jhf.org. 

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