News From the End of Life: RWJF launches new program

Community-based coalitions working to improve care for dying patients across the United States are eligible for support from an innovative three-year national program called Rallying Points. This initiative of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Last Acts campaign to improve care and caring near the end of life provides hands-on assistance to community coalitions nationwide.

Since the airing almost 18 months ago of the PBS four-part series On Our Own Terms, hosted by Bill Moyers, community-based coalitions have evolved to bolster awareness of end-of-life issues such as advance care planning and palliative care at the local and grass-roots level. Palliative care treats the whole patient — body, mind and spirit — relieving pain and symptoms and offering emotional, social, and spiritual support to the patient and family at the end of life.

"In recognition and support of local coalitions’ accomplishments over the past year, we created Rallying Points to assist them in their continuing work to improve care and caring for those people nearing the end of life," said Karen Kaplan, national program director for Last Acts.

Coalitions across the country have been hard at work to effect change. For example, Florida’s Life’s Journey Coalition has facilitated presentations on end-of-life issues for the local African-American Nurses Association, the Oncology Nurses Society, and the Aging Services Network. In California, the Coda Alliance of the Silicon Valley in coordination with area hospice managers recently held a "Community-wide Talking It Over" meeting to educate more than 100 community members. Michigan’s Partnership for the Advancement of End-of-Life Care is distributing its new CD-ROM, "Completing a Life: A Resource for Taking Charge, Finding Comfort and Reaching Closure."

Through the establishment of four resource centers, Rallying Points assists coalitions by providing workshops, materials and other learning opportunities aimed at strengthening local efforts. Resource Centers include: The Midwest Bioethics Center in Kansas City, MO; The Missoula Demonstration Project in Missoula, MT; The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast in Largo; and the National Resource Center on Diversity in End-of-Life Care in Washington, DC, reaching minority audiences.

The National Coordinating Center (NCC) for Rallying Points, located in Washington, DC, provides the centers with technical and administrative support. In addition, the NCC offers an electronic newsletter, a listserv, and an array of resource materials through its web site, located at The program has established a toll-free information hotline at (800) 341-0050.

Database being developed

"What’s most exciting is the innovative idea of helping coalitions obtain the services they need most," says Tina Purser-Langley, Rallying Points’ manager. "Rallying Points coalitions will be eligible for certificates that they can redeem for expert consultation about effective community projects and how to strengthen and sustain their work."

In addition to the certificates, a database of consultants and workshops is being developed for use by the coalitions and will be available on the web site soon. The resources will be selected specifically to meet the needs of community coalitions working on end-of-life care issues.

"Last Acts has been instrumental in effecting change at the top, pushing hard for national reforms in the end-of-life arena," says Ed Howard, executive vice president of the Alliance for Health Reform in Washington, DC, and chairman of the Last Acts National Advisory Committee. "Rallying Points is the push from the bottom, building and nurturing the critical work of the grass-roots coalition effort. Our goal is to meet in the middle, with success defined as good end-of-life care known and available to all Americans."