Joanne Rinker describes her mission succinctly: “The work that I do is focused on helping health departments identify and implement evidence-based interventions in their county to improve the health of the people in their population.”
The Bernstein Fellow is convinced that local health departments can play a valuable role in implementing Affordable Care Communities (ACC).
“I have this passion for my health department population,” Joanne said. “I want the health department to have a seat at the table in an Accountable Care Community. I know that they provide services that other organizations and providers in their community are not offering. Instead of duplicating services, which is more expensive and requires additional FTE hours, ACCs need to bring the local health department to the table to allow them to provide the service, and in turn reimburse them financially for the cost savings.”
Joanne, who will complete the Bernstein Fellow program later this year, has insight and perspective born of experience and education. The native New Yorker attended West Virginia University, where she completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She came to North Carolina after graduation to begin working with diabetes self-management education programs. Joanne became a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and worked for multiple education recognition programs for diabetes patients around the state.
In 2006, Joanne joined the N.C. Division of Public Health where she, along with Laura Edwards, started a state-administered program that helped local health departments throughout North Carolina gain ADA recognition for their diabetes education programs. While Joanne was the coordinator, it was the largest ADA accredited site in the United States.
In the summer of 2013 Joanne received the opportunity to join The Center for Healthy North Carolina as its Director for Training and Technical Assistance. Her role is whole-health focused rather than diabetes-specific, and focuses on helping health departments select and implement evidence-based interventions in their communities.
Joanne’s vast experience and established relationships with administrators and communities in most of the 100 counties across North Carolina have enabled her to better provide support and training to communities and local staff around the state.
Joanne’s Bernstein Fellows project very much supports improving community coalitions’ access to evidence-based interventions and showing how those projects can benefit an ACC. She worked to conduct a large-scale survey with active and inactive Healthy Carolinians partnerships throughout the state to find out how the partnerships wanted to receive technical assistance, and what technical assistance they needed. She then worked with the Care Share Health Alliance to develop and execute webinars to provide the necessary training and assistance.
Some of the most requested webinar topics included Collaboration and Coalition Building, Meeting Facilitation with Community Members, Evidenced-based Intervention 101, Evidence-Based Selection and Evaluation 101. The audience for each webinar consists of a range of public health professionals, including health directors, public health nurses and health educators.
The webinars have already seen great success. Attendance has reached as high as 100 participants. Although they officially wrap up in August, Joanne and her team have so many ideas for additional content to cover and audiences to reach that they have planned another 6-month series. The series will continue August 2015 until March 2016. In the meantime, the team is conducting a follow-up survey to determine if any of the partnerships have been able to build capacity because of the technical assistance provided by the webinars.
Joanne was part of a recent Bernstein Fellows educational event focused on ACCs. The speakers demonstrated the benefit to communities across the country and discussed why focusing on building ACCs is timely. Joanne and the other fellows agreed that it was very energizing to learn how ACCs can be so beneficial and why health professionals should make a point to be a part of the process.
“It was good to hear that there are functioning, successful ACC’s around the country,” she said. “We learned that there is a time when the ACC may lose money in the initial startup, but many have shown that they then see themselves gaining money and being able to pay back any start-up funds needed to get organized and fully functional. This will cost money but, in the long-term, the goal is for it to be cost-effective.”
Joanne speaks highly of the Bernstein Fellows program in general, and says it has been an incredibly valuable experience for her over the past two years.
“Not only are we learning, but we are also developing relationships with professionals who have the same end goal in mind,” she said. “The Bernstein Fellowship is such an amazing way to honor Jim Bernstein! I have been honored to be part of this. I know how important his work was, and still is, and I hope that myself and the other fellows can make a meaningful contribution to rural public health in North Carolina!”