Yesterday, Mayor Menino awarded the 2011 Mayoral Prize for Innovations in Primary Care to four Boston institutions whose landmark work on health care is improving patient care, driving down health care costs, and bringing innovation to the delivery of health care services.

Read more about the awards here, and meet the winners:

Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center

Colleen Pinch, associate director for Advanced Practice Nursing; Elizabeth Browne, executive director at Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center; Mayor Menino; Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director, BPHC

The Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center is being honored for its Prevention and Wellness (P&W) program. Collaborating with patient navigators, technology staff developed a system for tracking and coordinating care for patients in need of breast, cervical, and colon cancer screenings. In 2008, P&W adopted a customized electronic medical record so the health center’s patient navigators could view and track a patient’s screening history, ensure that all orders dispensed are fulfilled, and communicate with the primary care providers about outstanding patient needs.

This system allows the health center to fully realize the promise of an electronic medical record system while reinforcing a patient-centered model of care, enabling providers to tailor their follow up to the individual’s needs and maximizing care coordination. The innovation has led to an astounding increase in the number of patients receiving the recommended colon and cervical cancer screenings as well as a significant decrease in the number of patients who arrive unprepared for screening visits.

Whittier Street Health Center

Rachel Goodman, director of Community Services at Boston Housing Authority; Brent Henry, Social Health
Coordinator; Frederica Williams, President & CEO of Whittier Street Health Center; Mayor Menino; Dr. Ferrer

Whittier Street Health Center is a mainstay in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, providing primary care, behavioral health, dental and vision care to a diverse population of patients. Last year, Whittier Street took their services a step further with the development of the Vibrant Communities Program. Vibrant Communities is a partnership between Whittier Street and the Boston Housing Authority aimed at improving the health status of a particularly vulnerable patient population: public housing residents.

The program utilizes “social health coordinators” to improve health outcomes by connecting residents not only to medical care, but also to the community services that help residents address what they identify as their biggest health concerns: unemployment, community violence, and stress. Together with the traditional services offered by Whittier, Vibrant Communities is helping public housing residents in Boston live out their full health potential. In the coming year, this program will be expanded to include four additional housing projects.

John Hancock

Diana Scott, senior vice president, Human Resources; Mayor Menino; Dr. Ferrer; Trevor Singleton, assistant vice president, Benefits at John Hancock

The average full-time employee spends at least 9 hours a day on the job, making the worksite an important determining factor in the health of millions of American workers. John Hancock, a financial services firm that employs nearly 4,000 people in the Commonwealth, has responded by developing a comprehensive wellness program, HealthMatters (HM). Together with their insurance carrier, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and their food services contractor, Aramark, John Hancock’s wellness program has incentivized healthy lifestyle choices and improved the quality of food offerings in their company cafeteria.

Through their Healthy Returns program, the company rewards employees who set and achieve wellness goals. The Full Yield program, which was first piloted in Boston, offers healthier cafeteria options along with educational programs on healthy eating, fitness, and nutrition. Together, these programs have helped employees lose weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and quit smoking, resulting in a 3-to-1 combined return on investment for John Hancock and their employees.

Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation

Richard and Susan Smith, co-founders of the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation; Mayor Menino; Dr. Ferrer

The Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation earned its prize for their Boston-based Diabetes Self-Management Initiative. This five-year, $3.85 million investment enabled five community health centers in Boston’s poorest neighborhoods to standardize and coordinate diabetes care, pilot innovative care strategies, and enhance patient education and staff training. An evaluation of the initiative found improvements in diabetic patients at all funded health centers and that the programs were a cost-effective way to reduce the burden of disease.

This positive outcome not only benefits the patients in primarily low-income neighborhoods, but also positions these health centers to become model diabetes care providers, which will help ensure the sustainability of this investment.