NEWS | November 7, 2016

UC Davis School of Nursing researchers receive grant for novel advanced illness care program


Researchers from the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis were awarded $600,000 from the Rita & Alex  Hillman Foundation Innovations in Care Program for their collaboration with faith-based organizations in Alameda County that address advanced illness care disparities through the Alameda County Care Alliance (ACCA) Advanced Illness Care Program.

School of Nursing Associate Professor Janice Bells leads research partnership for novel advanced illness care program. School of Nursing Associate Professor Janice Bells leads research partnership for novel advanced illness care program.

The School of Nursing is one of two groups receiving grants of more than 160 applicants. The program is a novel person-centered, faith-based, lay care navigation intervention serving predominantly African-American adults.

“This program capitalizes on the strengths of partner organizations to increase the alignment between end-of-life goals and the care received,” said Rachael Watman, vice president of programs at the Hillman Foundation. “Looking forward, the data collected to date and ongoing evaluation will be used to develop a blueprint to scale and sustain the model across the U.S.”

Associate Professor Janice Bell serves as principal investigator and ACCA Executive Director and the Rev. Cynthia Carter-Perrilliat serves as co-principal investigator on a three-year project providing care navigation to address the advanced illness care needs of community members in alignment with their spiritual values and cultural preferences. The program also supports a shift in community perception about the importance of advanced illness planning and care and sets the stage for policy change related to payment for community-based advanced illness care activities.

“The ACCA Advanced Illness Care Program incorporates and builds on the insights and strengths of nursing science and holds great promise as a transformative care model for future replication,” Bell explained. “This effort would be unique among U.S church-based interventions for which, to date, there exists little documentation of programmatic content, success or impact. It also advances the work of national groups focused on raising the profile of palliative care among people and providers, increasing awareness of its benefits and advancing best practices.”

Originally developed with input from church congregants, health systems, community groups and national organizations and funded by Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit program, the program trains and deploys lay care navigators to provide advanced illness care navigation through five African-American hub churches.

“African-American families typically care for frail and older members at home, rather than seeking institutional placement, in circumstances often financially constrained, overwhelming and stressful for caregivers,” Carter-Perrilliat explained. “Our faith communities are uniquely positioned to fill disparity gaps by offering advanced illness care interventions from a trusted source that aligns care and decision-making with our members’ needs and values.”

Since its inception in 2013, the program has trained and deployed eight care navigators and more than 100 volunteers, provided service to more than 500 community members and secured start-up funding from multiple sources. This next phase, led by UC Davis researchers in partnership with ACCA and the Public Health Institute based in Oakland, California, addresses several gaps in existing care models and positions the program for sustainability through careful program documentation, data collection and analysis to strengthen the evidence base for its effectiveness.

“As trusted members of church communities, care navigators help congregants to meet their advanced illness care needs and link them to resources,” Bell added. “Our team was invited to join the ACCA because we bring expertise in nursing science, program planning, intervention development, health services research, program evaluation, education, training, dissemination and health policy.”

The Hillman Innovations in Care Program is a multiyear effort intended to enhance and expand nursing-driven models of care that benefit vulnerable populations. It seeks bold, creative, patient- and family-centered approaches that challenge conventional strategies, improve health outcomes, lower costs and enhance patient and family caregiver experience. The foundation is particularly interested in the areas of maternal and child health, care of the older adult and chronic illness management. 

To view a video on the care program collaboration, click here.

For more information on the school and its programs, visit