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    In 2006 HealthFirst opened as a Center for Education and Prevention at the St. Luke’s Campus. Our first patient was enrolled in the pilot January of 2007. CPMC developed HealthFirst in response to the scarcity of primary care physicians, the increasing costs of medical care, and the rising number and proportion of patients with chronic illnesses.

    The HealthFirst pilot is an innovative representative of a model where non-physicians are deployed to help manage stable, but chronically ill patients in partnership with their primary care provider. We use Community Health Workers (CHWs) and certified health educators as health coaches to serve as key components of the team-based model.

    Contact Information
    Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM by appointment only
    Location: 1580 Valencia Street, Suite 602, San Francisco, CA 94110
    Phone: (415) 641-2160
    Fax: (415) 641-2165

    Goals  |  Population Served  |  Services  |  Referral Process  |  Our Team  |  Stories  |  Published Articles


    HealthFirst’s primary goal is to find a more cost-effective way to support patients with chronic illnesses in a primary care setting and improve the quality of care. To do this, we offer the community access to prevention, outreach, and education services.

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    Population Served

    We are located at the St. Luke’s campus of California Pacific Medical Center, which is considered one of San Francisco’s “safety-net” hospitals serving the underinsured and underserved communities in the South-of-Market, Mission, and Bayview/Hunter’s Point neighborhoods.

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    Prevention: By offering services which are culturally and financially accessible, we encourage the community to seek help before it becomes an emergency situation and avoid expensive treatment in the Emergency Department.

    Education: By providing tailored education in nutrition, physical activity, and taking medications correctly, our emphasis is on teaching self-management of chronic diseases.

    Innovation: This is an innovative pilot program which employs specially-trained CHWs and clinical information technology to support primary care physicians in caring for their high-risk patients with chronic illnesses. We especially place a strong emphasis on health coaching and care coordination.

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    Referral Process

    HealthFirst accepts referrals from primary care physicians at St. Luke's Health Care Center (SLHCC). We are working to expand our patient base by partnering with other community-based primary care physicians in managing high-risk, chronically ill, and underinsured patients.
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    Our Team

    We use a multidisciplinary team based approach to managing chronic illness. Our innovative model has a community health worker as the core of the team who works alongside a physician, nurse educator, respiratory therapist, social worker, and the program manager. While these professionals are experts about diseases, it is the patient who is an expert about his or her own life. At HealthFirst, this partnership is crucial to successfully managing chronic illness. Patients set their own goals and the clinical professionals help them make informed choices. This way, patients are more motivated, gain a better understanding of their illness, and have the confidence to accomplish new behaviors.

    • Desiree Arretz, M.D., Medical Director
    • Lisa McCormick, Nurse Practitioner, Certified Diabetes Educator
    • Cynthia Perez-Vaughan, Community Health Worker
    • Carina Carrasco, Community Health Worker
    • Arturo Flores, Community Health Worker
    • Julie McKown, Respiratory Therapist, Certified Asthma Educator
    • Maria Vicente-Puletti, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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    Published Articles

    • Otero-Sabogal R, Arretz D, Siebold S, Hallen E, Lee R, Ketchel A, Li J, Newman J (2010). "Physician-community health worker partnering to support diabetes self-management in primary care." Quality in Primary Care 18(6): 363-372 Opens new window.
    • Otero-Sabogal R, Arretz D, Ngo V, McKown J, Li J, Lee R, Newman J (2008). "Positive Impact of a Self-Management Program on Improving Asthma Symptoms among Inner-City Children: St. Luke's HealthFirst Center for Education and Prevention."
      California Association for Healthcare Quality Journal 32(3): 16-29.

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