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Community Benefits

Establishing intersections
Lunch time at the Children's Center of the Upper Valley

It's lunchtime at the Children's Center of the Upper Valley, as Jordan LaClair pours himself some milk while his classmate Domanic Adams looks on. The healthy lunch—tuna sandwiches, vegetable soup, applesauce, and milk—is part of a program that is supported by Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

"I really love green beans," says a four-year-old girl with red curls. "I really love green beans," she says again, just to be sure her teacher heard her. The girl and her classmates are gathered around a low table eating lunch with one of their teachers. "It's good stuff, isn't it?" the teacher says between slurps of soup. "Lots of vegetables," she adds.

At the Children's Center of the Upper Valley (CCUV), the teachers eat the same food as the children—food that's prepared in the childcare center's kitchen—and it's part of their job to talk positively about fruits and vegetables, whole-wheat bread, and other nutritious food that the center is providing more of than it did in the past. The Fruit Loops and corn chips that used to be offered at breakfast and snack time have been replaced with whole-grain cereals and fresh fruit and vegetables.

CCUV teacher Samantha Wheeler

CCUV teacher Samantha Wheeler gets a hand setting the table from Hannah Watson.

About a year ago, CCUV began partnering with Dartmouth-Hitchcock through the Upper Valley Healthy Eating and Active Living Partnership (HEAL). HEAL is a statewide initiative to help New Hampshire communities promote healthy lifestyles and stem the growth of childhood obesity. The Children's Hospital at Dartmouth provides space and technical and financial support to Upper Valley HEAL and its community partners, including CCUV (a number of other organizations also support HEAL; see below for more on the program).

For example, D-H helped CCUV secure a grant from the HNHfoundation to purchase tricycles for its playground. D-H also gave CCUV two grants to create gardens where the children grow their own vegetables. Patricia Enneper, CCUV's food program coordinator, recalls the children picking cucumbers they'd grown. "They were so excited to try [them] for snack that day," she says.

Enneper and CCUV's program director, Jennifer Hosmer, are proud of the changes they've made but they admit they have a long way to go. Next summer, they plan to expand the vegetable gardens and maybe start composting food waste. "Change is hard," says Enneper. But change like this is worth the effort, they agree. About 35% of CCUV families are on public assistance, and fruits and vegetables tend to cost more than junk food, so the program both nourishes the center's children and helps them develop a lifelong taste for healthy food.

Geriatric outreach, too

Supporting community organizations like CCUV is one of the ways Dartmouth-Hitchcock is working toward its vision of achieving the healthiest population possible. At the other end of the age spectrum from CCUV, the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging have teamed up with the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council (GCSCC) to provide education, support, and networking services to older adults, their caregivers, and the professionals who work with them.

"There's certainly a strong need for more geriatric education," says Roberta Berner, executive director of GCSCC, which serves 39 communities. And a social-service provider like GCSCC and a medical-care provider like Dartmouth-Hitchcock "have a lot of points of intersection," she adds.

By forging such connections, D-H is helping to establish not just a safety net for the region's most vulnerable residents, but also fertile ground from which stronger, healthier communities can grow.

Benjamin Lin

Benjamin Lin is clearly enjoying his vegetable soup.

More about these initiatives

Funding for Upper Valley HEAL comes from the HNHfoundation, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation, Endowment for Health, and New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. In addition, the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth hosts and provides financial support for UV HEAL.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock also works with UV HEAL, Willing Hands Enterprises, and primary-care providers in the region to help provide fruits and vegetables to lower-income families with young children. This initiative is called Produce Prescriptions (see the "LEARN MORE" box above for further information).

UV HEAL is part of a statewide HEAL initiative, a project of the Foundation for Healthy Communities. In addition, Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Aging Resource Center offers numerous programs to the public free of charge. Videos of previous events can be viewed online. And these programs are just a small sampling of the many ways Dartmouth-Hitchcock aims to meet its vision of achieving "the healthiest population possible."

The numbers

The magnitude of Dartmouth-Hitchcock's impact on the region can be measured in stories like the one above, or in numbers like those below. One of the greatest benefits D-H offers is charity care—medical services provided at a discount or free of charge. From fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2009, the cost of financial assistance to patients totaled $61 million. Here is a summary of all the community benefits provided by D-H during that period:

 

FY 2007

FY 2008

FY 2009

FY07-FY09 Total

FY07-FY09 Average

Uncompensated Medicaid

42,785,162

47,176,115

57,790,376

147,751,653

49,250,551

Cost of financial assistance

20,235,536

18,458,609

22,311,745

61,005,890

20,335,297

Medical and professional education

13,463,926

13,427,663

14,416,254

41,307,843

13,769,281

In-kind support for research and other grants

2,890,455

2,908,084

3,306,095

9,104,634

3,034,878

All other community health activities

8,021,378

6,871,395

7,417,237

22,310,010

7,436,670

Totals

87,396,457

88,841,866

105,241,707

281,480,030

93,826,677

The community benefits provided by Dartmouth-Hitchcock during fiscal year 2010 are currently being calculated, and the figures will be posted here as soon as they are available.