Groups Share Ideas and Resources to Make a Bigger Impact

Representatives from diverse regional groups participate in a NVHF-sponsored meeting.

Helping uninsured residents enroll in health insurance plans. Changing health laws so that pregnant women can receive dental benefits. Making sure toddlers have a safe place to play. These kinds of changes are happening in Northern Virginia in large part due to coalition-building: bringing together disparate groups to work toward a common goal. By sharing ideas and leveraging resources, this type of collaboration allows organizations to make a bigger impact toward improving health. Here are some examples of coalition-building that NVHF supported in 2014.

The Northern Virginia Health Services Coalition

The Northern Virginia Health Services Coalition is a group of health organizations and safety-net clinics that each provide a range of medical services to help meet the health needs of low-income, uninsured residents in the region. This coalition, with the help of a Foundation-funded facilitator, meets monthly to share best practices and identify ways to better serve more patients.

“Before the Coalition was formed, each safety-net clinic worked independently within the boundaries of its jurisdiction and only had access to information about that community. Now, we have a much broader picture of the health of the region at the safety-net level.” said Nancy Sanger Pallesen, who recently retired as Executive Director of the Arlington Free Clinic and is the former Chair of the Northern Virginia Health Services Coalition. “As a group, we’ve been able to understand what’s working in other areas and make more informed decisions about which solutions might also help address the needs in our individual communities.”

The coalition members also collaborate to improve services for their clinics. For example, in preparation for the 2013/2014 health insurance open enrollment period, Northern Virginia Family Service, one of the coalition member organizations, set up a training program with funding support from NVHF for member clinics and others to learn how to navigate the online insurance marketplaces. In turn, employees and volunteers in all the clinics were able to assist uninsured patients with the online enrollment process.

The Northern Virginia Oral Health Services Coalition

The Northern Virginia Health Foundation also supports the work of the Northern Virginia Oral Health Services Coalition, a group of individuals and safety-net service providers working together to tackle oral health challenges in the region. “We’re working to help people understand that oral health is about more than the health of your teeth. It can have a profound impact on everything from your overall health, to your work, social life, and beyond,” said Dr. Raja’a Satouri, Deputy Director for Medical Services of the Fairfax County Health Department and Coalition committee member.

One of the Coalition’s major activities in 2014 involved aligning health data across all of their member safety-net clinics. A recent survey revealed that each organization in the Coalition used a different set of metrics to measure and report its patient oral health data—a practice that makes it difficult to truly understand the depth of the oral health needs in the region.

In response, the Coalition started working to develop metrics to help tell the story of the kind of care low-income patients receive from oral health safety-net programs. These metrics will help the Coalition advocate for programs that directly address the oral health needs of the community, said Dr. Satouri. “Each member of this coalition is in a unique position. We’ve been entrusted to serve as a voice for our community, and we’ve signed on to be part of the growing movement to improve oral health in Northern Virginia.”

Individually, these two coalitions have made strides toward improving the health of Northern Virginia residents. In 2015, the Northern Virginia Health Services Coalition and the Northern Virginia Oral Health Services Coalition will meet for the first time to discuss how they can work together to better integrate oral health services and primary care into their respective fields.