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Funder invests $300 million in health care

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has named 14 communities across the U.S. to participate in a $300 million effort to reduce health-care disparities and improve overall care.

The areas selected for the funder’s Aligning Forces for Quality program, launched in 2006, are home to more than one in 10 people in the U.S.

The goal of the effort, which the foundation hopes will serve as a model for national reform, is to reduce racial, ethnic and regional gaps in care while improving care overall.

“Across America, there are serious gaps between the health care that people should receive and the care they actually receive,” Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the foundation, says in a statement. “Despite having the most expensive health-care system in the world, patients are subject to too many mistakes, too much miscommunication and too much inequity,” she says.

In research conducted to inform the program, the foundation uncovered significant disparities by race and place.

African Americans in general are almost five times more likely to undergo leg amputations than whites, for example, and residents of Louisiana are three times more likely than those who live in Utah to lose a leg.

A third of women overall are not getting recommended mammograms, the study says, and significantly fewer African-American women receive them than do white women.

And seven in 10 diabetics in Alaska receive necessary blood tests, compared to more than nine in 10 diabetics in Vermont.

Fourteen communities were selected in a competitive process designed to find regions best-equipped to revamp their health-care systems: Cincinnati; Cleveland; Detroit; Humboldt County, Calif.; Kansas City, Mo.; Maine; Memphis; Minnesota; Seattle; South Central Pennsylvania; Western Michigan; Western New York; Willamette Valley, Ore.; and Wisconsin.

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