Distributed February 22, 2000
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Scott Turner

New RI coalition unveils campaign to improve end-of-life care

A three-year, $380,000 grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will fund a new Rhode Island partnership that will conduct education campaigns statewide to improve the caliber of end-of-life care. The partnership will be based at the Brown University Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A statewide partnership has received a grant of $380,000 to educate consumers and health-care providers and work with government leaders to improve quality of care for those approaching the end of their lives in Rhode Island.

“This is an important opportunity to improve the quality of end-of-life care in all segments of health care in Rhode Island,” said principal investigator Joan Teno, M.D. She is an associate professor of community health and medicine at Brown University School of Medicine.

The three-year grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will fund several wide-ranging education campaigns:

  • A consumer task force will create and carry out educational programs, outreach and the publication and distribution of consumer guides to motivate the public to demand high-quality end-of-life care. This effort will include an education campaign centered on the PBS television series “On Our Own Terms: Bill Moyers on Death and Dying,” scheduled to air this fall.

  • A provider task force will run a “train the trainer” educational program to empower certified nursing assistants, the people who spend the most time with the dying, to provide the highest quality of care.

  • A quality task force will conduct a statewide quality improvement program for 30 nursing homes to raise the awareness of health care providers about improving quality of care for the dying. This group will also provide technical assistance to the Rhode Island Department of Health as it develops and implements quality-of-care indicators for hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies statewide.

In addition, the partnership will conduct an educational conference for pastoral staff focusing on spirituality and end of life.

Many of the partnership’s activities will focus on nursing homes. Per capita, Rhode Island has the nation’s fourth-highest percentage of elderly residents and leads the nation in the proportion of individuals who die in nursing homes. Forty-five percent of those who die in Rhode Island spend part of the last month of their lives in a nursing home or die there.

A recent survey by Teno and colleagues showed that almost half of the people who die in Rhode Island die in pain. This percentage mirrors the national rate.

Across the health care system in Rhode Island, “the nursing home community is the most committed and ready to take on the task of improving quality of care,” Teno said. “This industry is willing to rise to the occasion and tackle the issues. In no way is this criticism of nursing homes. This is simply an important opportunity.”

The partnership will be based at the Brown University Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research. Partners include the University of Rhode Island, Aging 2000, and several members of Rhode Island state government.

The project’s other leaders include Phillip Clark, professor and director of the Program in Gerontology at URI and director of the Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center; Jean Miller, professor of nursing and the Weyker Professor of Thanatology at URI; Ed Zesk, executive director of Aging 2000; David M. Gifford, M.D., clinical coordinator of Rhode Island Quality Partners and assistant professor of medicine and community health at Brown; and Marcia K. Petrillo, executive director of Rhode Island Quality Partners.

The Rhode Island group is one of the 23 coalitions nationwide to receive a total of $11.25 million from the Community State Partnerships to Improve End-of-Life Care grant program, funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These broad-based, multidisciplinary groups will identify problems, make recommendations and build public support for practical policies, regulations and guidelines to improve care of the dying.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care.

To contact Teno, call (401) 863-1606; Phillip Clark, (401) 874-2689; Jean Miller, (401) 874-2766; Ed Zesk, (401) 521-7930; and David Gifford and Marcia Petrillo, (401) 528-3200.


99-081a  News advisory announcing press conference