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Families First director wins lifetime achievement award
Portsmouth Herald - 5/19/2017
PORTSMOUTH - The New Hampshire Public Health Association recently honored Helen Taft, longtime executive director of Families First Health & Support Center, with the 2017 Roger Fossum Lifetime Achievement Award.
The award, given each year in memory of the state's first Chief Medical Examiner, honors a senior public health individual who has made significant contributions to public health.
"Under [Taft's] leadership, Families First is breaking down barriers to access quality medical and oral health care for the underserved in the Seacoast area," said the association in an announcement of the award. "Through wise strategic planning, skilled networking ability and a lot of hard work, Helen has successfully forged partnerships with area hospitals and developed links to social service agencies, shelters and mental health centers among many other community partners."
Helen Taft's affiliation with Families First began in 1989 when the agency was known as the Portsmouth Prenatal Clinic and she was its only full-time employee. Today, Families First serves 6,500 people each year from its health centers in Portsmouth and Seabrook and mobile health and dental clinics in five Seacoast towns. Its services have expanded from prenatal care to also include home visiting for families, parent education, primary care, dental care, mobile health care, and behavioral health care, including substance abuse treatment.
In her speech accepting the award at the Public Health Association's annual meeting, Taft noted that all these services were integrated into Families First in response to community needs and with the help of many partners. "All these partnerships speak to the importance of collective impact and the responsibility of the community, not the health care system alone, to implement a population health model."
Throughout her career, Taft has taken on leadership roles in many not-for-profit boards and committees, including Bi-State Primary Care Association, Community Health Access Network, the NH Oral Health Coalition, the Foundation for Healthy Communities, and the Integrated Delivery Network for Region 6.
Taft's acceptance speech also focused on the importance of addressing patients' social needs when providing health care to a vulnerable population. "Health care services are only about 15 percent of what determines health status," she said. "The public health model has become the standard of care for the most vulnerable populations in our state. That model has always included addressing the social determinants of health, providing care coordination for services on site and in the community that include meeting housing, food, transportation, employment and other social needs."