Connecticut Health Investigative Team INNovation Success Story

Connecticut Health Investigative Team chose to hold a health fair with their INNovation Fund grant from Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund. They leveraged a $20,000 grant into $52,000 in additional revenue from sponsors and donors. Additionally, C-HIT saw a 35 percent increase in website users and a 43 percent increase in pageviews during the project timeframe.

One of many strategies you’ll find in their story is the use of  targeted marketing. C-HIT wanted to reach minority communities who traditionally under-utilize healthcare resources and were unlikely to become aware of the health fair event through mainstream media. They partnered with neighborhood churches for outreach with significant impact — 52 attendees at the fair noted that they learned about the event through their church.

Learn more about the innovative strategies used by C-HIT that made them a INNovation Success Story!

Organization Name: Connecticut Health I-Team

Project Title: Get Health Wise: The Benefits Of Preventive Care

Focus: A health fair to educate the public about the free preventive health care services offered under the Affordable Care Act.

What was your organization trying to achieve?

C-HIT saw a three-fold purpose in this project:

  • To educate new or infrequent health consumers about the preventive care services available to them under their private, Medicaid and Medicare insurance plans.
  • To diversify and expand our funding base and market our brand.
  • To develop an open avenue of collaboration between C-HIT – an investigative news website – and key health care providers, who have a natural wariness of reporters, especially investigative reporters.

What role did the INNovation Fund dollars play in the project?

The INNovation funds played a key role in the success of this project.

We used the funds to pay for a fundraiser, hired under contract, who secured sponsorships. The fundraiser contacted over 50 local organizations and businesses in the state – in many instances making first-time introductions about C-HIT and our work.

C-HIT created its own health care usage survey, assembling a team of interviewers who walked the streets in Hartford, New Haven and other communities, asking residents to fill out our questionnaire.  We got 444 responses, crunched the data and wrote a story based on the information culled.  At our event, we discussed some of the major findings on utilization of health care, such as annual primary care checkups, Mammogram and colonoscopy screenings. Attendees were given a breakdown of the major survey findings.

What were the key successes of the project?

Key successes:

  • Attracted a diverse crowd of 150 state residents who connected with top-notch doctors in the fields of primary care, behavioral health, diabetes and health heart; cancer prevention and screenings and nutrition.  Attendees left with new knowledge about free preventive services that are available and how to access them.
  • Introduced C-HIT to a new audience of consumers, state and local health officials, and neighborhood organization leaders. As a result of this and other public forums, page views went from 14,000-20,000 in 5 months.  In the same time frame: users increased from 9,575 to 12,900, a 35% increase.
  • Expanded our pool of community resources. Since the Health Wise forum our new contacts have provided story tips, helped with outreach for our 2016 forums, and have volunteered at our events.
  • Made many new connections with hospitals as sponsors and doctors as speakers. This was a big plus  since C-HIT’s coverage is often critical and sponsors are leery of being associated with such coverage.  Creating an event removed the objection to sponsorship. Also it was a bit of a surprise that the biggest MD critic  was the keynote for the health fair!
  • Best outreach efforts were to minority churches and organizations in low-income neighborhoods. 52 attendees learned of the fair through their church, and ministers mentioning it during church services.
  • More events followed. One on diabetes raised $18k. Also got an invite, after many attempts, to apply for large multi-year grant to CF of Greater New Haven.
  • INNovation Fund-supported forum brought in $4k in individual donors post-event.

What were the lessons learned?

Our health fair reaffirmed something we knew – that CT residents have an insatiable appetite to learn all they can about ways to improve their health outcomes.  But what we discovered through our survey and our event planning is that the healthcare landscape is so complex that the Affordable Care Act message is muddled.

The information we gathered prior to the event helped us shape our program.  We set up ‘health stations’ and our doctors and clinicians met with attendees in small groups, explaining what health care services are available and how to best access them.

We were successful in attracting a diverse crowd by reaching out to neighborhood churches.  The heads of the congregations worked with us and passed out information about our health fair during their weekend services.  That’s the main reason we were successful at attracting a diverse crowd to our Health Wise fair.  In 2016, we hosted two public forums and each time we visited neighborhood churches  – which proved very successful in attracting attendees. (At C-HIT’s September event: Defeating Diabetes, two churches bussed parishioners to our forum.)

What were the critical success factors (ex:market types, internal capacity) that made it work?

Event planning is labor intensive. Upfront planning is key, stick to the plan and make sure that each assignment is understandable.

Would you recommend this revenue- or audience-building approach to other news organizations?

Forums are an excellent way to connect with people in the community, hear about their issues and also market your organization.

What insight would you offer anyone using or thinking of trying a similar approach?

The upfront market research that we did by developing and circulating the questionnaire helped us shape our program to meet the needs of our audience.   The best outreach methods for this target audience was through local church leaders, non-profit organizations and neighborhood groups.

What was your general funding profile at that time?  

National Foundations: 30%

State Foundations: 16%

Self- generated revenue:  54%

Self- generated includes: paying media partnerships, event sponsorships, individual donors and camps.

What is the market/community that you serve?

C-HIT is a statewide news website. We reach 1.2 million readers through our own website and our 16 media partners, who are located in every county in CT.

Responses provided by C-HIT Editor Lynne DeLucia.