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By Dave Gardner

Geisinger Health System has launched a new initiative that is a radical approach in transforming the health of an entire community.

The broad effort, entitled Springboard Health, focuses on NEPA residents’ struggles with diabetes, obesity and behavioral health issues. Also common are higher-than-average rates of smoking, drinking and drug addiction, plus food insecurity and an absence of fresh, non-processed foods.

Nancy Lawton-Kluck, Geisinger’s chief philanthropy officer, noted that her organization is charged with developing self-sustaining solutions to health problems. This makes the Springboard Health initiative a natural to pursue.

“Geisinger has become an effective catalyst for Springboard Health by taking community activities and collaborating them into an effective effort,” Lawton-Kluck said. “In the future, we want to refine the program so that it can be taken on the road to other communities with similar socioeconomic health challenges.”

Central to the Springboard Health initiative is a process that identifies existing programs in the community and matches them with available funding mechanisms. New funding sources are also uncovered, as well as gaps between programs.

According to Lawton-Kluck, at the top of the Springboard list is the Geisinger Fresh Food Pharmacy (FFP). This is a prescription food program for diabetic and food-insecure patients in the Shamokin area and Lawton-Kluck cited how, through the pharmacy, Geisinger has become a food distribution agent.

This program can be coordinated through Springboard Health with Lackawanna County food pantries, for food clients who have challenges leaving the house. Social service agencies who can provide transportation can increase the number of clients who can visit the food distribution locations.

“This solution can also work for people in need of housing, education, literacy and those battling opiates,” Lawton-Kluck said. “As we tie together our community agencies, it will provide a sustainable and ground-level model to take to other communities and help make them healthier.”