November 28, 2011

Healthy San Francisco is one of six finalists, out of 563 applicants, in Harvard University’s Innovations in American Government Awards. had 563 applicants from across the country. Each of the finalists will receive $10,000, and the winner, to be announced early next year, will receive $100,000. Harvard intends the award money to help winners initiate similar programs in other cities.

The award money is intended to help the winners repeat their successful programs in other cities. San Francisco is no stranger to the competition; the city has won twice before — in 1998 for the SAGE and the First Offender Prostitution Program that helps former prostitutes and human trafficking victims lead healthy lives and in 2004 for the San Francisco Sheriff Department Resolve to Stop the Violence Program geared toward violence prevention program in one of its main jails.

But this year, San Francisco has some stiff competition. Healthy San Francisco is up against New York’s NYC Service — a program that connects volunteers with volunteering opportunities, another NYC program focused on antipoverty measures, a business program in Littleton, Colorado, a teacher apprenticeship program in Boston and a job creation program in Oregon.

Healthy SF: A Cost Effective Model

Healthy San Francisco began in 2007 and now serves 55,000 San Francisco residents at 33 locations. Under the program, more than 85% of the city’s uninsured have a primary care doctor, and, as a result, emergency room visits have decreased. Any uninsured adult living in San Francisco who is ineligible for Medicare or Medi-Cal qualifies for Healthy San Francisco. For more information about qualifications and how to apply click here. Applicants’ immigration status, pre-existing medical conditions and employment do not affect an individual’s ability to qualify for the program. The program cost the city $177 million last year, $100 million of which came from taxpayer funds.

Should President Obama’s health care initiative stand up to a challenge in the Supreme Court, many of those currently covered by Healthy SF would shift to regular insurance. However, according to the director of Healthy San Francisco many still will not be covered, leaving a need for Healthy San Francisco — particularly as a model for other cities facing similar situations.

Good luck to Healthy San Francisco and the other 5 Harvard Innovations in American Government Awards finalists. Stay tuned for updates on the other finalists and winner when the winner is announced next year.