National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM)

In 2021, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) produced a report, “Implementing High-Quality Primary Care: Rebuilding the Foundation of Health Care,” that outlines a plan to advance and strengthen the primary care system.

NASEM also created a standing committee of national experts to inform the public sector’s efforts by maintaining surveillance of the primary care field, including studies and changes in clinical practices and policies. In 2023, NYHealth awarded NASEM a grant to convene this expert panel to inform and strengthen the nation’s primary care system.

Under this grant, NASEM will operate its standing expert committee over three years to inform federal efforts to strengthen primary care. NASEM will engage a committee of 18 experts from across the country, including primary care clinicians, researchers, and policy experts. It will convene two to four public meetings annually; experts from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture will also be invited to participate. Discussion topics may include primary care access across patient populations, care delivery and payment models, primary care workforce, and team-based care. Additionally, NASEM will develop a series of policy briefs and make recommendations to inform policymaking, disseminating reports through its monthly newsletter, social media, and press outreach. It will also share the committee’s findings and recommendations with federal policymakers.

Fair Food Network

For families with low income, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program, but most SNAP participants still spend more than one-third of their income on food and forgo fresh fruits and vegetables.

The resulting nutrition insecurity leads to poorer health and an increased risk of diet-related diseases. To address this need, nutrition incentive programs like Double Up Food Bucks aim to encourage SNAP participants to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables by providing matching dollars, vouchers, or discounts to use at a range of retailers. Similarly, produce prescription programs—which can be filled and used at grocery stores or farmers markets—provide incentives for low-income patients with diet-related diseases to purchase fruits and vegetables. While these programs have broad support, the technology to allow seamless transactions at the point of sale (i.e., the electronic system that accepts and processes payment at the register) has proven difficult, creating frustration and perpetuating stigma. Retailers and programs need an improved point-of-sale system for processing nutrition incentives that allows cashiers to simply process benefits like a single credit card, which would increase transaction speed, streamline reporting, and reduce stigma. In 2023, NYHealth awarded Fair Food Network a grant to address technology barriers that limit the widespread adoption and redemption of nutrition incentives and produce prescription programs that support the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers.

Under this grant, Fair Food Network will build the technology requirements for a scalable and low-cost transaction technology that allows for seamless participation by both retailers and shoppers. Its lead project partner, the National Grocers Association, represents independent grocery retailers nationwide and will help mobilize industry relationships and connections. Fair Food Network will establish a stakeholder workgroup that includes Field & Fork Network, which has scaled the Double Up Food Bucks Program across the State; the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Groceries to Go produce prescription program; and other members like technology developers, grocery retail and farmers market associations, store managers, cashiers, and shoppers. The workgroup will identify clear technical requirements for efficient nutrition incentive transactions. Additionally, to make a business case for technology companies, Fair Food Network will emphasize that there is the demand from the field for this innovation and that both developers and grocers can acquire more revenue if they invest in the recommended solutions. Lastly, Fair Food Network will leverage its extensive network of industry relationships to secure investment from point-of-sale technology companies.

Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism

In today’s age of information overload and hyperpolarization, it can be challenging for people to discern what is credible and what is not.

Health misinformation and disinformation are flourishing, particularly on social media, as has been evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health journalists are tasked with providing accurate and reliable health information to the public. However, media outlets have faced downsizings, consolidations, and a lack of resources for journalists’ continuing education and professional development. Without specialized training, reporters, editors, and producers are left on their own to develop literacy and understanding of health issues. The Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, the supporting nonprofit organization for the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), aims to fill that knowledge gap through an annual national conference that attracts approximately 700–800 reporters, editors, and producers, as well as health care luminaries. In 2023, NYHealth awarded the Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism a grant to support the 2024 national Health Journalism conference in New York City.  

Under this grant, AHCJ will create a new conference track focused on food systems and nutrition. The grant also provides partial support for the four-day conference, which will include field trips to see firsthand the innovative work being done to improve health in New York; panel discussions and keynote addresses from leading experts; and skills-building workshops.

CATCH Global Foundation

Vaping, especially among youth, is an increasing public health concern.

A single pre-filled pod for an e-cigarette contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, along with other harmful additives. These substances stunt adolescent brain development, hinder learning, and can increase risks of developing chronic diseases. A 2019 NYHealth analysis showed that more than half of New York State’s high school seniors have tried vaping, following staggering increases over the previous five years. The State’s youth cigarette smoking rates reached an all-time low in 2020, but the emergence of a new generation of vape smokers puts these gains at risk. CATCH My Breath (CMB) is a nationally recognized, evidence-based vaping prevention program for students in 5th–12th grades that has been shown to increase students’ knowledge about the harms of e-cigarettes and to prevent vaping initiation among participants by almost half. In 2022, NYHealth awarded CATCH Global Foundation a grant to expand the program across New York City’s middle and high schools to reduce youth vaping rates.

Under this grant, CATCH will focus on five key activities: (1) raising awareness, promoting training opportunities, and recruiting schools for participation in CMB; (2) training administrators and teachers to weave the CMB curriculum into existing classroom lesson plans and physical education activities; (3) facilitating outreach to parents; (4) engaging students in service-learning projects about vaping; and (5) hosting train-the-trainer sessions that will enable participants to facilitate CMB trainings for other educators. It will host in-person and virtual Train-the-Trainer Academies. Participants will be certified to facilitate CMB trainings for educators and will be required to complete supplemental training in subsequent years. CATCH will reach 90 educators. CATCH will also partner with national and local organizations to broaden its reach and maximize youth and parent engagement.

The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania for the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Firearms are the most common method of suicide among veterans; they account for more than 70% of total deaths by suicide in the veteran community, compared with 20% in the non-veteran community.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of firearms purchased. The Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM) training model is the only training evaluated by peer-reviewed research that shows its efficacy and remains the gold standard for lethal means access counseling. Research highlights the important role that family members play in the support of individuals at high risk for suicide. In the first phase of NYHealth-supported work, a coalition of partners tailored the CALM training for non-clinicians. In 2022, NYHealth awarded the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (CVA) a grant to develop and deliver comprehensive suicide prevention training tools to ensure New York’s veterans, family members and caregivers, and veteran-serving organizations are equipped to discuss firearms and safe storage with loved ones who may be in crisis.

Under this grant, CVA will develop workshops and materials with expertise from firearm-owning veterans and family members, members of suicide prevention coalitions, and experts in the field of lethal means safety. It will hold regular meetings and conduct focus groups to ensure that activities reflect the needs of veterans and families. CVA will pilot the workshops in county-level suicide prevention coalitions in Jefferson, Monroe, Orange, Onondaga, and Erie counties. To promote trust and buy-in, workshops will be co-delivered by a local firearm owner/safety expert who has served in the military. To amplify the project’s reach, CVA will host two train-the-trainer sessions for participants from additional veteran-serving organizations and provide guidance on leading the firearm safety workshop. Each trained leader will further conduct a CVA-supervised lethal means safety workshop in their respective communities. CVA will evaluate workshops to assess participants’ knowledge in safe gun storage options, as well as participants’ perceived competence in discussing lethal means safety. It will also update the training website with new resources and work with partners to include the training into core staff training requirements for a range of veteran-serving entities.

Stop Soldier Suicide

New York’s veterans die by suicide at almost twice the rate of their civilian counterparts, accounting for 1 in 7 suicides in New York State.

Research shows that veterans at risk of suicide will not always disclose suicidal thoughts or indicate they are in crisis to a mental health provider. NYHealth partnered with Stop Soldier Suicide in 2020 and 2021 to expand its Disrupt Veteran Suicide program across New York City to target and identify veterans at high risk for suicide through online marketing campaigns and social media. In 2022, NYHealth awarded Stop Soldier Suicide a third grant to expand Disrupt Veteran Suicide across the State, with a focus on high-need areas including rural counties and Western New York.

Under this grant, Stop Soldier Suicide used digital tools to identify veterans who are at risk of suicide, as well as delivered thousands of media impressions through outreach on social media and online forums. It assessed veterans who display moderate- to high-risk of self-harm and connected them to care. Stop Soldier Suicide delivered specialized, culturally competent telemental health care and individualized care plans to veterans at high risk for suicide, and connected clients to services to help alleviate crises. It also strengthened its network of partners to bridge gaps in care, enhanced peer-to-peer support, and provided external clinical services when needed. Stop Soldier Suicide continued to evaluate its model to support ongoing quality improvement and effective implementation. The evaluation served as a blueprint for other statewide expansions of the Disrupt Veteran Suicide program across the country.