On Wednesday, April 26th, 50 Many Hands donors and friends gathered at Georgetown University for our second Donor Education Forum, “Understanding Health Challenges for DC-area Women and Children.” Longtime Many Hands supporter and Health Committee member, Tricia Neuman, moderated an engaging panel discussion with Dr. Stephen Teach, Chair of Pediatrics at Children’s National Health System, and Dr. Dora Hughes, Senior Health Policy Advisor at Sidley Austin.

Dr. Neuman, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, asked the panelists to present a general picture of the health challenges facing women and children in DC. Dr. Teach and Dr. Hughes agreed that the health disparities in DC are striking, and that “health and healthcare for both children and women is a tale of two cities.” Dr. Teach, a nationally-recognized expert on pediatric asthma, talked about wildly divergent rates of the disease and resultant hospitalizations based solely on ZIP code. Dr. Hughes spoke of poverty as an “independent risk level for disease” and stressed how our healthcare system, which includes vast “healthcare deserts” in the poorest sections of our city, is ill-equipped to handle the many challenges facing women and families living in poverty.

Panelist speaker Dr. Dora Hughes

There are signs that the system is beginning to respond to these complex needs in holistic ways rather than the traditional specific disease-focused approach. Both panelists spoke about the transition from “volume-based care” (paying providers based on how many patients they see) to  “value-based care” (paying providers based on the outcomes of their patients) and how this paradigm shift could revolutionize healthcare delivery. Dr. Teach noted that the work of Many Hands which focuses on Health, as well as Education, Job Readiness, and Housing, is representative of a “vast, interconnected Venn diagram” of service providers needed to address healthcare holistically in DC.

In response to a donor’s question about organizations that are “getting it right,” the panelists talked about some true areas of innovation across the country and in our local community. As for the organizational characteristics Many Hands should be looking for in health-related programs, Dr. Hughes and Dr. Teach both stressed that strong leadership focusing on holistic treatment is key. They suggested that Many Hands support organizations which work in partnership with other innovative community groups. But they also pointed out that sometimes the most effective grant supports the core mission of a well-led, forward-thinking organization, so “don’t shy away from funding core work”.

Panelists Teach, Neuman, and Hughes

This excellent, thought-provoking discussion reinforced so much of what we have been hearing from our grant applicants and seeing for ourselves during the dozens of site visits our committee members have attended over the past several months. The issues facing women, children, and families in the metropolitan DC area are complex and vastly different depending on where they reside. In just a few weeks, we will meet to grant over $200,000 to local organizations that are truly having an impact. Together, along with dedicated professionals in the healthcare field like Dr. Neuman, Dr. Teach, and Dr. Hughes, we can make a difference.