Neva Francis named the latest Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion for her efforts to improve community health

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky has named Neva Francis of Lexington the latest Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion for her career-long commitment to improving community health.

Francis is vice president for healthy communities at CHI Saint Joseph Health, part of KentuckyOne Health.

“Neva understands that there are a multitude of factors that define health and wellness for each unique person and community,” Jane Chiles, former board chair of CHI Saint Joseph Health, said in a foundation news release.

One program Francis has led during her more than 40 years as a registered nurse is the “Total Health Roadmap” project, supported by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Catholic Health Initiatives. It has engaged community partners in Laurel, Madison and surrounding counties to serve more than 8,000 residents after they first underwent a screening to assess whether their basic human needs were being met, said Chiles.

In addition, Francis leads various diabetes and nutrition education programs, as well as efforts to reduce hospital re-admissions for chronic diseases throughout the state. She has also worked to prevent violence, substance use and impaired driving, especially among youth and young adults around key milestones in their lives, such as prom and graduation.

Elizabeth Wendeln, a KentuckyOne Health board member, said Francis actively works on the organization’s community-needs assessment. “Neva traveled to the counties to get firsthand information on the systemic causes of any particular need,” goes to Frankfort as an advocate and also educates and activates board members to “be a voice for the people in influencing policies particularly regarding health in the state of Kentucky,” she said.

Francis, along with other winners of the award, is eligible for the Gil Friedell Health Policy Champion award, which comes with a $5,000 grant from the foundation to a Kentucky-based nonprofit of the winner’s choice. The winner will be announced at the foundation’s annual health policy forum Sept. 23 in Lexington.