Mention the words “group project” to anyone and you’re likely to hear a groan.
That’s because we often have bad memories of school assignments gone terribly awry, with a few diligent members completing the bulk of the work and everyone else conveniently disappearing. But research tells us that hands-on learning and teamwork are great ways to apply what we’ve learned, especially in the complex world of health care.
That’s why each year, as part of the Foundation’s Health Leadership Program
, the leaders split into two groups and work on a project – the development of an issue brief that addresses a community health problem. Leaders are asked to devise a strategic solution that incorporates what they have learned in the program over the course of six months.
Last month the class of 2011 presented their two issue briefs to the Foundation’s board. They chose two growing problems -- adolescents returning to school following a mental health crisis
and elder substance abuse
The keys to addressing both issues were, not surprisingly, education and collaboration. In the case of adolescents who have experienced a behavioral health crisis, cooperation among schools, parents, mental health providers, and hospitals is pivotal to providing a less stressful return. In addition, the health leaders said schools need to embrace the importance of developing and implementing comprehensive re-entry plans. Then they must consistently use those plans in order to ease the transition back into the classroom.
The group that studied the problem of elder substance abuse found that educating older adults and their caregivers about the signs and risks of substance abuse was a necessary first step in a multi-pronged approach. This includes encouraging health care providers to use evidence-based screening tools. A major component of ensuring that older adults have access to affordable treatment is increased Medicare funding.
The ten leaders scored high marks with the Foundation’s trustees who urged Foundation staff to share the recommendations and incorporate them into their work in the community. In the past, leaders’ projects have helped inform the Foundation’s decisions on what initiatives to undertake.
While working together was not always easy given the leaders’ schedules, they agreed it was an extremely useful component of the program.
“It was a great opportunity to learn more about another issue I don’t work directly on. And it was also great to learn more about some of the individuals participating in the program,” wrote one leader.
All in all, I’d call that a far cry from a groan.