THT Celebrates a Decade of Making a Difference
Trenton Health Team, created in response to a local health care crisis, has expanded its mission over the past decade to address all the factors–medical and social–affecting community well-being through innovative programs and partnerships.
“Over the years, we have learned that we will never get people healthy by just providing them with more healthcare,” said Trenton Health Team Executive Director Gregory Paulson. “We’ve learned every aspect of a community affects health outcomes–poverty, structural racism, food insecurity, trauma and other issues doctors andhealthcare providers are ill-equipped to address. That’s a reality our country is just starting to confront.”
THT began as the response to closure of Mercer Medical Center in 2006 and concerns about the effect on city residents who lacked consistent access to primary care and instead relied heavily on emergency rooms. For the first time, Capital Health, St. Francis Medical Center, Henry J. Austin Health Center and the City of Trenton Department of Health and Human Services began collaborating–and in February 2010 that collaboration was incorporated as Trenton Health Team. See story in Trenton Daily
“THT was– and is–the organization that unites, integrates and accelerates community health work in Trenton,” said Christy Stephenson, former CEO at St. Francis Medical Center and founding board member. “THT’s convening of, and coordination of, grant efforts has brought dollars to Trenton that no one organization could ever have achieved on its own.”
Over the years, THT has attracted more than $20 million in funding for programs serving Trenton residents and partnered with faith-based communities, barber shops and soup kitchens to screen for health issues, share information and encourage healthy lifestyles. THT partnerships assist pregnant women struggling with addiction and school children suffering from asthma.
While THT’s early work was aimed at addressing issues at the “tip of the iceberg”–acute health episodes leading to ER visits–THT recently helped lead statewide effort to create Regional Health Hubs. As one of New Jersey’s first health hubs, THT will expand its work with providers and community organizations to integrate, coordinate and align disconnected services.
“THT is making sure we’re all moving in the same direction–like rowers in a crew- to augment what we are each doing across the city. In doing so we can maximize manpower and resources to the best of our ability–especially when resources are so limited,” said Kemi Alli, chief executive officer at Henry J. Austin Health Center and a founding THT board member. “THT is the heart of making this happen.”
Indeed, THT has revolutionized how healthcare and social services interact through both cutting-edge use of health data and hands-on community meetings.
For example, The Trenton Health Information Exchange (Trenton HIE) is a database allowing more than 1,250 clinical users across central New Jersey to share medical information about nearly 700,000 patients, leading to better coordinated healthcare, better informed clinical decisions, fewer repeated services and, ultimately, improved patient
“Trenton Health Team is making it easier for those who care for the most at-risk patients to provide better care,” said Robert Remstein, vice president for Accountable Care at Capital Health and a founding THT board member. “We couldn’t do our jobs as we do, without the HIE. The HIE leads to better patient care because we can investigate and see a patient’s history–and that can make a difference in a person’s care.”
NowPow is another THT online tool that helps caregivers address social determinants of health—causes of health problems that are not medical–by making referrals directly to food pantries, legal services, faith communities and other social services in hope of mitigating conditions contributing to health concerns.
The THT Community Advisory Board represents more than 99 organizations and 220 individuals; CAB workgroups focus on specific concerns, such as maternal health, safe communities and access to healthy food. Convening members of government agencies, nonprofits, health care and the community has revealed valuable perspectives and opportunities for innovation.
“Trenton is now a model for multi-sector partnership and a national model for integrated health and well-being services,” Paulson said. “As our nation continues debating the future of health care, lessons we’ve learned in Trenton over the past decade offer a way forward.”
Trenton Health Team is grateful to funders who have encouraged and supported its progress over the years,including:
- Reductions in avoidable emergency room utilization; including a 45% reduction in ER visits and 39% reduction in costs from 2010-2012
- A new system for scheduling medical appoints that reduced wait times and improved patient access to primary care
- A Community Advisory Board bringing together diverse agencies and care providers across the city and county
- Free cancer screenings through the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection program, including tests for cervical cancer that have been credited in reducing both deaths and incidence of the disease
- Brunswick Avenue Safe & Healthy Corridor engaged community partners and residents to improve pedestrian safety and the surrounding North Ward neighborhood, including events, farmers markets and street design
- Faith in Prevention program engaging lay leaders helping congregation members understand their health risks, and providing nutrition information and healthy lifestyle strategies so they can manage those risks.
Since THT launched the program, nearly 80 houses of worship have participated, touching the lives of nearly 1,400 congregants
- The Capital City Diabetes Collaborative (CCDC) bringing together multiple clinical and community organizations to address major issues regarding treatment and management of diabetes
- Trenton Health Information Exchange, a database of more than 600,000 patient records that has improved clinical workflow and patient care planning, while also creating opportunities for data analysis and problem-solving
- NowPow, a community resource referral platform providing a new way to address social determinants of health — economic and social conditions that influence well-being
- Free community health screenings measuring risk for diabetes, hypertension and obesity
“THT faces the future with renewed energy, financial stability, and an expanded understanding of what a healthy Trenton would mean for our community and state,” Paulson said. “We look forward to sustaining our partnerships, building new relationships and continuing this important work.”