Insurance Companies Take New Approach to Addressing Social Determinants of Health

America’s health insurers – in partnership with state- and federal-programs – have begun to address the non-medical, social, and physical environments which affect a person’s overall health – also called the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH or SDH). Research continues to show that these factors, such as housing, access to healthy food, education, and employment directly impacts health risks and outcomes and have been brought to light by high-profile programs like Healthy People 2020.

So where do insurance companies come in?

American health insurers, in addition to Medicare and Medicaid, have begun to invest in services and policies that seek to help patients overcome barriers related to housing, medicine, food to ultimately improve the life and health of patients and their families, and save millions of dollars for insurers and taxpayers.

According to Forbes, UnitedHealth (the nation’s largest health insurer) has invested $350 million since 2011 in affordable housing. Anthem has committed $380 million. And Medicare and Medicaid programs have begun to re-adjust their reimbursement models to include additional services that will help keep people out of ERs and hospital beds.

“Obviously, states cannot afford to pay for everything, but until you meet those basic needs, it’s almost impossible to address their healthcare,” said Jeff Myers, president of Medicaid Health Plans of America, in the Forbes article. “It’s hard to get a diabetic to focus on eating well if they don’t know where they are going to live.”

Kaiser Permanente recently committed $200 million to reduce homelessness – by increasing access to and availability of secure housing – to keep their members healthy. According to Business Insider, the company also sponsors school programs, increases access to healthy food and others services, gaining support from powerhouses like Berkshire Hathaway, who call these programs the future of American health care.

According to Non Profit Quarterly, some Medical Institutions are tackling these issues on their own. Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, committed $6.6 million to build and renovate affordable housing to improve neighborhood health. According to one Nationwide pediatrician, poor and unstable housing leads to chronic diseases, and many are exposed to toxins and community violence – which directly impact children’s’ development.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) works with several clients from the nonprofit, philanthropic, and government sectors that directly and indirectly address Social Determinants of Health for the betterment of families and communities including First Year Cleveland, HMS, and The Ohio 8 Coalition, among others.

National Association of State Boards of Education Collaborates to Advance the Early Childhood Education Workforce

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) issued a policy update about the Early Childhood Education Workforce and its ongoing collaboration with the National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

The policy brief details successful statewide collaborations with state school boards in Michigan and New York, which are working to build their Early Childhood Education (ECE) workforce. It shares valuable lessons learned from these collaboratives just as Power to the Profession (P2P) – the nationwide push to professionalize the Early Childhood Education field – begins to expand across the U.S.

All stakeholders that have a role in a young child’s life– from local child care centers to state organizations – plays a role in advancing the ECE workforce.

  • State Policymakers: State boards of education and other policymakers can get input, allocate funding, set workforce standards and provide technical assistance and best practices for the Early Childhood profession.
  • Local Policymakers: local leaders can allocate funding for professional development or tuition, in addition to convening and advocating for statewide ECE funding.
  • Professional Associations: professional associations in the ECE workforce can advocate for policies, standards and practices which can be imbedded in local, state and federal policy. This facilitates a shared understanding and helps to ensure that knowledge and skills are both evidence-based and appropriately used.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) is proud to work with NASBE and NAEYC, in addition to their state affiliates, to provide technical and communication assistance to engage early childhood educators, higher education, community leaders, and local and state government agencies to bring about meaningful changes in the ECE profession.

Cleveland Unites to Fight the Role of Racial Bias Within Infant Mortality Through Strategic Policy Plan

Infant Mortality – the death of a child before his or her first birthday – has been a serious crisis since well before the advent of modern medicine. But it’s come into a new light in the last few years, particularly regarding African American children, because these children die at an alarmingly higher rate than children of other races.

The Editorial Board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and its sister site,, recently wrote about one organization that’s working to end the crisis in Northeast Ohio. First Year Cleveland was established in 2015 to address Infant Mortality in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, which have some of the worst infant death rates in the country. African American babies are dying SIX TIMES more often than white babies in Cuyahoga County.

First Year Cleveland – along with its dedicated team of hospital leaders, activists, researchers and public officials – have committed to solving this crisis by understanding, and combatting, racial bias and its effect on infant deaths. This includes looking at the impact of stress on pregnancy, how women of color are treated during medical care and what it’s like for these families to lose a baby.

What is “Racial Bias” as it Relates to Health Care?

According to the article, “Doctors and researchers have debated the reason for the racial divide in infant deaths for decades, but have struggled to explain why black women in America, across incomes, are more likely to deliver early and suffer a loss. Recently a consensus has been building that being a black woman, with its accompanying and unavoidable daily experiences of interpersonal and systemic racism, causes a real and measurable toll on the body in the form of excess stress, which can lead to conditions that directly impact infant and maternal health.”

One First Year Cleveland team member, Christin Farmer, founded an organization of community-based doulas called Birthing Beautiful Communities (BBC), which seeks to combat this bias – as well as Infant Mortality – through education, pregnancy support and parent development. Vice recently featured BBC’s efforts and shed a national spotlight on Cleveland’s crisis and what these dedicated organizations are doing to change it. BBC is just one strategy that First Year Cleveland is elevating to address infant mortality and the underlying issues that drive the disproportionate number of babies of color that die each year.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is proud to partner with First Year Cleveland where ACS developed and is currently helping to implement FYC’s Engagement and Public Policy plan. This comprehensive effort seeks to change and implement strategic local, state, and federal policy priorities to help build a more a comprehensive approach (including matters of racial bias) to reduce Infant Mortality in Cleveland.

A new ESSA Data Requirement and Its Potential Impact on the Future of School Spending

In 2019, a new requirement in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)* will require schools to report per-pupil spending data. Currently, school districts allocate their resources however they see fit – evenly across every school, more in schools with higher need, or less in schools with higher need.

Requiring schools to share this data will present an opportunity for parents, advocates and legislators to create change in the way districts allocate their resources. Education Week recently posted a commentary by Ary Amerikaner of the Education Trust urging schools districts to engage equity-minded advocates regarding data to advance student achievement and invest more in those schools that need the most support. Increased data transparency gives school districts a chance to work with partners to address the particular needs in their communities.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) knows and has proven that successfully advancing any strategy is not simply about conducting in-depth research, or identifying messages, or systems building, or stakeholder engagement but rather it is a strategic combination of multiple approaches that are tailored to an organization and its specific goals. Bringing stakeholders together can be challenging, and ACS has created several frameworks to make the process easier. ACS has a deep understanding of early education and K-12 education policy and practice, and how a lens toward equity shapes the policy and practices that affect students. Contact ACS for more information!


*The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed in late 2015 and governs America’s K-12 public education policy, encompassing everything from testing and teacher quality to interventions and assessment and accountability standards.

Voters in Three States Choose to Expand Medicaid

Voters in three states, Utah, Idaho and Nebraska, passed Medicaid expansion in yesterday’s midterm elections.

Thirty-one states, plus the District of Columbia, have already expanded Medicaid in the last few years. This expansion broadens coverage to Americans with incomes up to 138% of the poverty level, roughly $17,000 for an individual and $35,000 for a family of four in 2018. Lawmakers in several other states, including Virginia, have passed expansion plans for 2019.

Individuals in Utah, Idaho, and Nebraska, whose governors and lawmakers opted not to expand Medicaid, took matters into their own hands – building grassroots coalitions, going door to door and creating successful petitions to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is deeply involved in advocacy and communication related to Medicaid and related policy issues including First Year Cleveland, HMS and others. It can be a confusing topic – and varies from state to state – so visit the ACS Medicaid Glossary to learn more about this timely issue. Feel free to contact ACS if you have any questions.

Millions in Danger of Losing SNAP Benefits

The Brookings Institute recently did a deep-dive analysis of the 2018 Farm Bill and how it will affect the work requirements of Americans who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly food stamps – benefits. The House version of the bill would expand work requirements and could cause close to 400,000 households to lose their benefits. The Senate version of the bill does not address the work restrictions, instead suggesting administrative changes to the SNAP program. The bill has been sent to a committee charged with presenting one united bill by September 30, 2018.

The authors, Brookings researchers, examined the Current Population Survey, which observes employment transitions over two years, as well as the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Using these data sources, they examined four categories of recipients: (1) employed and worked more than 20 hours per week, (2) employed and worked less than 20 hours per week, (3) unemployed and seeking employment, or (4) not in the labor force.

Because only those working more than 20 hours per week every month would be eligible to retain their SNAP benefits, the authors estimate that nearly 80 percent of adults without children under 6 at home who do not receive disability benefits would be exposed to potential SNAP benefit loss under the House proposal.

It is likely that those who would be most affected by the work requirements are those who are working in the volatile low-wage labor market.

Through its deep expertise in Workforce Development, Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) works with clients to develop strategies that help individuals address barriers to employment, and at the same time help employers in their community hire quality staff. Barriers to employment, such as PTSD, homelessness, lack of work history or education, or being formerly incarcerated often prevents individuals from being “job ready”, and many traditional workforce development programs cannot help them find and keep a job. As work requirements for safety net programs such as SNAP and Medicaid become more common, state and local agencies will need to develop strategies to help ALL of their customers find employment.

To learn more about the Farm Bill and its effect on SNAP recipients, visit the House Committee on Agriculture.

Early Education Degree Achievement Plan eliminates financial barriers to higher education for early childhood educators

Bright Horizons Family Solutions®  – a leading provider of high-quality early education and preschools, employer-sponsored child care, back-up care, educational advisory services and other work/life solutions – recently announced that it would provide free college tuition for all full-time employees in the company’s early education centers and preschools. Bright Horizon’s Early Education Degree Achievement Plan is the first of its kind and will eliminate the financial barriers to higher education that many early childhood educators face.

Bright Horizons employees taking advantage of the program will not have to pay for any expenses out of pocket, including tuition, fees and books. Unlike a traditional tuition reimbursement program, employees will not need to find a way to pay for the expenses up front. Bright Horizons has been offering employees a free Child Development Associate (CDA) credential for employees since 2007. The CDA, together with the Early Education Degree Achievement Plan, offers those interested early education careers a path to a full college degree, whether they are already committed to their career or straight out of high school, with no financial barriers.

It is well known that effective early childhood educators are the essential ingredients to quality early childhood programs. This move by Bright Horizons makes it easier for educators to enroll and pay for college, and increases the quality of early childhood education across the country. It supports an ongoing nationwide effort to professionalize the early childhood education field and Power to the Profession (P2P). P2P is a national collaboration designed to define the early childhood education profession by establishing a unifying framework for career pathways, qualifications, standards and compensation. The collaboration is led by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and supported by affiliate organizations and early childhood providers across the U.S.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is a technical assistance provider to five NAEYC state affiliates that conduct outreach and elicit feedback about P2P from the early childhood education field.

It’s Election Season! Tools to Support Electoral Advocacy

With the 2018 midterm election less than 70 days away, many electoral advocacy efforts are in full swing. There are many electoral activities that non-profit organizations CAN organize or engage in legally. Here are a few resources to help you reach out, take action, and bring your issue into the limelight.

  • The Town Hall project researches every district and state for public events with members of Congress and shares their findings to promote participation in the democratic process. The Town Hall Project empowers constituents across the country to have face-to-face conversations with their elected representatives.
  • In addition to Congressional Representative events, The Town Hall project shares information about events for Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia State Legislatures.
  • Families USA developed an advocacy guide with six key questions to ask Congressional candidates about health care.
  • Use ACS’ Do’s and Don’ts of Electoral Advocacy to understand what your 501(c)3 organization can and can NOT do when conducting nonpartisan electoral advocacy and ballot initiative activities.
  • ACS’ guide to Building an Effective Electoral Strategy presents a 4-step process that will help you build that electoral strategy by walking you through the internal and external elements an effective strategy must entail.
  • ACS’ Guide to Developing a Successful Get Out The Vote is a step-by-step how-to guide filled with tips, tools, frequently asked questions, and other supporting materials.
  • Want to host your own forum for local, state, or federal candidates? Use ACS’ Guide to Hosting a Successful Candidate Forum. Hosting a candidate forum is an opportunity to bring important topics to the forefront of a local or state election. These forums are a great way to engage the community, stakeholders, and candidates in a discussion about the need and importance of your issue.

Whatever action you decide to take this election season, Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is here to support you. Contact us at


ACS nominated for two Excellence in Advocacy Awards for State Issue Campaigns

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is pleased to share that both its President Lori McClung and Vice-President Scarlett Bouder have been nominated for separate Excellence in Advocacy Awards. They join 20 other nominees in the Excellence in a State Issue Campaign award category, which is described as an effort wherein the advocate(s) successfully impacted the outcome of a state or local legislative or regulatory problem or opportunity on behalf of their cause, issue, client, organization or coalition. The award will be presented at the Professional Women in Advocacy Conference on October 9, 2018.

The first round of nominations will be judged by their peers – women working in government relations, advocacy, public affairs, law, activism and campaigns. Finalists will be judged by the Bryce Harlow Foundation who will select one awardee for each award category. The Bryce Harlow Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the quality of professional advocacy and increasing the understanding of its essential role in the development of sound public policy.

Click here to see the full press release. For more information on the nominees, the awards, and the conference please visit

Fueling Workforce Development through Local Philanthropy

The Philanthropy Roundtable is America’s largest network of donors united by desire to protect philanthropic freedom, uphold donor intents and strengthen the free society through charitable giving. Recently, the organization held its Better Skills, Better Jobs conference in Dallas – bringing together philanthropic organizations to discuss the role of philanthropy in workforce development.

National Fund for Workforce Solutions President and CEO Fred Dedrick moderated a panel entitled Better Skills, Better Jobs: Philanthropic Strategies with Andrea Glispie of Pathways to Work; Michelle Thomas of JPMorgan Chase; and Wende Burton of the Communities Foundation of Texas. The group discussed a new model of workforce development and its potential to increase the impact of philanthropy.

Each panelist talked about the way their organizations have used philanthropic investments to improve job quality, raise employee satisfaction and address specific needs of the local workforce. The panel agreed that a successful workforce development model should focus on three key areas:

  • Partnership with industry
  • Connection to economic development
  • Reconsideration of the barriers of entry to the labor market

According to Dedrick, “…Foundations get together around the table and start comparing notes. And that collaboration changes the way they make investments locally.”

To learn more, watch the panel discussion here or read about it at the National Fund for Workforce Solutions’ website.

Philanthropic support is a critical for many workforce programs to help individuals find and keep work. Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) works with both foundations and workforce entities to support policy change, develop advocacy and communication strategies, and build successful philanthropic platforms.

For example, with momentum behind Two Generational (2Gen) approaches and a focus on poverty reduction by the Detroit Mayor’s office, ACS helped Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) by researching and developing core and audience-specific messages and a strategy to advance 2Gen in Detroit.

ACS also created a plan and consistent messaging to help three Workforce Development Boards in North Carolina (Centralina, CharlotteWorks and Gaston County) leverage their board members as effective spokespersons to advance the boards as a go-to resource for the community.

Read more at the ACS website.