June 26, 2015 | by Ellen Alperstein
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It takes a village. No man is an island.
Choose your aphorism: It’s a simple truth that collaboration usually is better than isolation. That’s especially true when you’re trying to introduce healthful habits and deliver health care to people at risk of disease and with little access to care. City of Hope knows that reaching the most vulnerable residents of the Greater San Gabriel Valley requires what the military might call boots on the ground — people working within the community who are invested in its well-being. That’s where City of Hope's new Community Benefit Advisory Council comes in. The council's goal is to identify issues that affect the area’s vulnerable populations – and support strategies to solve those issues. The council works within a web of intersecting lines to craft policy and pass judgment on how the hospital pursues its community benefit mission. It's made up of 28 community members, plus six nonvoting City of Hope representatives. The council's next big decision is in July, when it will decide which community groups will receive funds from City of Hope's Healthy Living Grant Program. “Many of the final decisions the council makes are based on the broader community,” said Nancy Clifton-Hawkins, community benefit manager at City of Hope. “They’re not from on high.”Council members serve populations targeted by ethnicity, culture or socioeconomic status; they work in local hospitals, schools and social service agencies; their faces are black, white, Latino and Asian. They know who needs information about how to reduce the risk of cancer, and how to deliver it in ways their neighbors will embrace. Many of the council members are already intimately familiar with the resources of City of Hope because they’ve worked with City of Hope’s Center of Community Alliance for Research & Education, or CCARE, whose mission is to increase education and awareness of the most advanced practices in health care among the minority and financially struggling residents of the community. Both of the council co-chairs, Viki Goto and Patricia Duff Tucker, for example, became engaged with City of Hope through their work with CCARE. Goto is a senior market manager for Community Engagement at the American Cancer Society, and Duff Tucker is program director for Neighbors Acting Together Helping All, or NATHA, which primarily develops enrichment programs for underserved youths. A big responsibility, a serious commitment As a longtime independent hospital consultant, Clifton-Hawkins helped create the standard for community engagement. That means inviting to her table folks who might be perceived as competitors, not collaborators. City of Hope’s Community Benefit Advisory Council includes a nurse practitioner in medical oncology at White Memorial Medical Center and a physician’s assistant at Methodist Hospital of Southern California. “We want people serving on the council who see disparities in their communities,” Clifton-Hawkins said. “Our advisory council members do not all focus on the same things. They have complementary interests and experiences, and it’s transformative when we stop seeing each other as competition and start seeing each other as partners who enhance the health and well-being of everyone in their communities. The bottom line shouldn’t be to win the competition; it should be to get everyone healthy.” That’s clearly paramount for the councilor who’s a nurse for the Duarte School District, the Ugandan-born Ph.D. public health consultant in chronic disease and the executive with Men Educating Men About Health, or MEMAH. But it also will be true for people whom Clifton-Hawkins hopes to attract as council members. The council, which is still evolving, has held two quarterly meetings so far. It's already demographically diverse, but most members serve in health care or related fields. In addition to the Latina college student from UC, Riverside, Clifton-Hawkins would welcome to the group “moms, dads and teenagers living in the community.” Shared goal, shared work Duff Tucker agreed, noting that NATHA has 20 teenagers involved in program development, and suggests adding some seniors to the council. Goto’s membership wish list includes “a representative of the L.A. County Public Health Department; access to their data would be great. Also, primary care and insurance company partners could address access-to-care issues.” And what about former smokers, low-income people who are targeted by tobacco company marketing. she wondered. They’re a particularly vulnerable population, and the Community Benefit Advisory Council, Goto said, “would benefit by having people speak to the barriers they personally face to good health.” “Nancy has done an outstanding job getting a wide variety of community-based groups together,” Goto said, noting that her own organization has benefited in real terms. “For example, I can learn about Planned Parenthood’s programs and goals for the community, and that provides a pipeline of health care workers I otherwise wasn’t familiar with.” Through the Community Benefit Advisory Council, City of Hope, she said, “desires to make an impact." The result? E pluribus unum — out of many, one. ** Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.