Danya20: Our CEO Talks About Celebrating 20 Years of Shaping Healthy Futures

Photo of Jeff Hoffman, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Danya International

Jeff Hoffman, Ph.D.
Danya Founder and CEO

May 17, 2016, will mark Danya International’s 20th anniversary. Founded in 1996 by Jeff Hoffman, Ph.D., our company’s journey began in, of all places, our CEO’s basement. While his daughter Daniella watched Under the Umbrella Tree and his son Yaniv played with Legos and pirate ships on the floor above him, Jeff started writing the government contract and grant proposals that continue to be the backbone of Danya’s business to this day. Jeff named his startup “Danya”—a blending of his children’s names, including his youngest Daphna, that reflected that this company would be a personal and impactful change, both for Jeff’s life and for the lives of those he hoped to reach through Danya’s work.

The rest, of course, is history. Danya continues to make positive changes through contracts and grants that allow us to help reduce addictions, prevent diseases, promote the health and education of young children and their families, and promote diversity and inclusion in everything we do. With a company philosophy of “Innovative Solutions for Social Impact,” we have embraced six core social impact goals that we conceived a decade ago and that continue to drive us in our search for new and socially significant projects:

  • Improving child, family, and public health
  • Improving public and behavioral health education and training
  • Improving the quality of comprehensive early childhood education
  • Reducing hunger and increasing food security
  • Reducing the impact of HIV infections and other infectious diseases
  • Reducing tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use and addictions

To help us kick off our anniversary celebrations, Jeff recently took some time to discuss some of the joys and accomplishments of growing Danya throughout these past two decades.

How would you describe your experience running the company?
JH:
Overall, it has been very exciting and fulfilling to run a social impact company, working in so many different important health and education areas. It has been an honor to work hand-in-hand with government agencies and personnel, to help them accomplish their public service goals.

Looking back at the past 20 years, what would you say is Danya’s greatest accomplishment?
JH:
There have been a number of accomplishments. We’ve worked closely with the Office of Head Start to improve the overall accountability and monitoring of Head Start grantees around the country, which we believe is resulting in improved education and comprehensive care for children and their families in Head Start.

We’ve accomplished many communication and training goals with CDC, helping to enhance HIV and other infectious disease prevention around the United States.

We’ve also been able to assist the Navy through their Clinical Preceptorship Program, which provides clinical supervision to their substance abuse counselors on Navy bases around the world, for more than 10 years. It’s been very fulfilling to work with our Armed Forces/military.

And we accomplished a number of goals in East Africa—improving health systems in Kenya, enhancing farming practices, and engaging women in leadership decision-making in farming co-ops in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Are the social impact goals as relevant today as they were 10 years ago?
JH:
Yes, unfortunately—they are still huge problems in our society and around the world. The drug epidemic, for example, has increased in this country recently; and while tobacco use has declined in the United States, it has increased in many countries around the world.

However, there has been tremendous progress in reducing the number of HIV infections and AIDS cases around the world. We’re honored to have made a contribution to this effort.

What do you find most meaningful about Danya’s work?
JH:
When we get feedback from children or families who are positively impacted by our video or web or educational materials, and we see that it helps them live a better life—that is meaningful. We’ve done a lot of work in the area of autism, providing a whole range of educational materials that are available on autismonline.com, that have been enormously helpful to many people around the country.

Where do you see Danya heading?
JH:
We plan to work in partnership with a range of other companies to build on our core capabilities in monitoring and evaluation, training and technical assistance, and marketing and communications to address a wider range of social problems.

Finally, what has been your greatest joy of running the company?
JH:
Working with the staff on these social impact projects. We have had and continue to have some of the most talented, dynamic, and gifted staff, and I enjoy planning, implementing, and problem-solving with the various teams. I also enjoy working with our clients on these issues. I especially like coming up with creative solutions to difficult social problems.

So, there you have it—the people are his favorite part of the business! Happy Anniversary, Danya!

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Shop CVS

shop cvs logoThe decision last week by CVS Caremark to stop selling tobacco products effective October 1, 2014, in over 7,600 pharmacies across the United States, is a milestone for the tobacco control movement. CVS President and CEO, Larry J. Merlo, stated that this decision to end tobacco sales “is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health.” This decision is said to cost CVS up to $2 billion in tobacco-related sales per year, but will likely save tens of thousands of people from developing tobacco-related diseases and premature death.

President Barack Obama praised CVS’ decision, saying it will save lives and reduce health care costs. He thanked CEO Merlo, stating that this “decision will help advance my Administration’s efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs.” However, what has received less attention is that President Obama also deserves substantial credit for this landmark decision. If it were not for the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 and the tobacco screening and cessation services covered under the ACA, CVS most likely would not have been in a position to make this landmark health-conscious decision.

In general, the ACA mandates screening of all patients for tobacco use and requires that tobacco cessation counseling and medication be offered to patients across all private and public health insurance plans.Although the requirements for reimbursement of these services is not clearly or consistently defined across health insurance plans, CVS was able to make the financial calculation that they will be able to make up for the $2 billion loss, and possibly even exceed it, through offering these cessation services and products in health clinics expanding within their pharmacies. CVS announced that they will launch a national smoking cessation program this spring, which will surely include offering a range of cessation services.

This is not to detract from the positive actions CVS has taken. By making this bold move, they are now leaders of the pack, and they will indeed save many thousands of lives by this action. We applaud their decision and say, “SHOP CVS!” We can all show our support for the decision by buying their healthy products. We at Danya call for a SHOP CVS campaign to support their decision and hope that others will follow their example. Let’s also give due credit to the Obama Administration for having the foresight to mandate tobacco screening and cessation coverage to promote health, save lives, and ultimately reduce health care costs from tobacco-related diseases.

The Danya Institute will be hosting the National Conference on Tobacco and Behavioral Health (NCTBH): Interventions, Integration and Insurance on May 19–20, 2014, at the North Bethesda Maryland Marriott, which will provide the tobacco control field an update on tobacco cessation and the ACA (http://www.danyainstitute.org/national-conference-on-tobacco-and-behavioral-health-2014/). Mark your calendars!

By Jeff Hoffman, Ph.D.

CEO, Danya International, Inc.

Danya’s CEO Attends Corporate Council on Africa’s 9th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit

cca 2013

The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) hosted its 9th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit on October 8–11, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois. This 4-day conference brought together more than 1,000 public and private-sector representatives from more than 70 countries to discuss the importance of expanding private-sector trade and investment between the United States and the nations of Africa. The conference highlighted the key areas in which our members feel Africa presents its greatest case for investment: agribusiness, energy, health, security, infrastructure, capacity building, information and communications technology (ICT), and finance. Dr. Jeff Hoffman, Danya International’s CEO and former CCA Board Member, participated in the conference and met with several key officials from Ethiopia—where Danya is planning to set up its second East Africa office—including the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Girma Birru, the Deputy Foreign Minister and State Minister Dawano Kedir, and the Director General of the Ethiopian Investment Agency Fitsum Arega to discuss Danya’s plans for investing and registering as a management consulting firm in Ethiopia. According to Dr. Hoffman, “This conference was a great opportunity to meet with some of the key Ethiopian government officials to help lay the groundwork for expanding Danya’s activities in East Africa. These officials offer a warm welcome to U.S. companies to invest and work in Ethiopia and will assist with navigating the process.” Dr. Hoffman also joined in the signing ceremony between Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing to announce their partnership to double-wire harness production at Ethiopian Airlines’ Wire Harness Facility. He had the opportunity to meet Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, and Kagnew Asfaw, Ethiopian Airlines Regional Director for the Americas, to congratulate them on the continued success of Ethiopian Airlines. “Ethiopian Airlines is one of the shining star companies in Africa and one of the best airlines in the world,” said Dr. Hoffman. “Having flown on one of the new Ethiopian 787 Dreamliners, I can say without a doubt that Ethiopian Airlines is operating a state-of-the-art airline company!” For more information about the CCA Summit see their website: http://www.cvent.com/events/9th-biennial-u-s-africa-business-summit/event-summary-70d14537c5b34b74944fe720f508eb77.aspx

By Melissa Jackson

September is SAMHSA’s Recovery Month – Join the Voices for Recovery: It’s Worth It

Hop online or turn on a cable news show and there’s a good chance you will see a breathless, sensational headline about a celebrity’s wild drunken antics or drug abuse drama. But for the millions of people in recovery from substance abuse and addiction, the headlines aren’t entertaining. They have an intimate understanding of the pain addiction causes and the havoc it wreaks on lives. They have an intimate understanding of how hard it can be to stop.

For the past 23 years, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has set September aside as Recovery Month in celebration of the millions of Americans in recovery. This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: It’s Worth It.”

It’s hard to find a person who hasn’t been touched by substance abuse: Danya has worked on a variety of projects related to substance abuse; our founder and CEO, Dr. Jeff Hoffman, is trained as a clinical psychologist and researcher with specialized experience in addiction treatment, tobacco control, HIV prevention, and family relationships; and even I can attribute my very existence to substance abuse.

To be exact, I can attribute it to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where my grandparents met. But that wasn’t the meeting that led them to recovery; it took them each several tries before it stuck.

My grandparents embodied the message that SAMHSA is promoting with their recovery month observance: while the road to recovery may be difficult, “the benefits of preventing and overcoming mental and/or substance use disorders are significant and valuable to individuals, families, and communities.” In other words, getting better is hard, but it is worth it.

By the time I came into the world, my grandmother was clean and sober, and my grandfather had long since passed away (due to factors other than alcohol abuse). I never even knew about her issues with addiction until I was a teenager. All I knew was my grandmother had so much empathy for anyone suffering. Now I realize that empathy was hard won. It came from the years she spent suffering.

My grandmother was one of many. According to recent data released by SAMHSA, in 2010, 2.6 million people (aged 12 or older) who needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem received treatment at a specialty facility in the past year. Just imagine how many people there were – that there are – who need treatment but haven’t sought it yet? How can we best reach these people?

Providing vital public health messages to the people we need to reach has been a driving force for Danya International as a company since its inception in 1996. It’s why we have social impact goals that include promoting mental health education. It’s why, as a company, we have gone for and worked on government contracts that reach a variety of types of people and educate about a variety of types of sensitive health issues, including HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, and, yes, substance abuse. And it’s why we continually educate ourselves about and immerse ourselves in the latest technologies so we can help our clients provide the highest level of service possible to those who need it.

People struggling with substance abuse problems need to hear that there is a way forward. Maybe those are the very people Recovery Month is for. Celebrate those who are in recovery, but it is also important to have empathy for and encourage those who are still working toward it – even the people we see the headlines about online and on the cable news shows. It’s worth it.

To learn more about Recovery Month, visit http://www.recoverymonth.gov/.

By Stacy Fentress

Suicide Prevention in the Military

A couple of weeks ago, Danya hosted the 2012 Clinical Preceptorship Training Conference for Navy substance abuse program directors, counselors, and our clinical supervisors at a Navy base in San Diego, CA. Sharon Foley, our Project Director, asked me to conduct a training session on “Suicide Prevention in the Military,” and I was assisted in collecting information and literature by Sharon and several other Danya staff, including Nancy Bateman, Jessica Tercha, Lindsey Martin, and Karen Gavin-Evans. I’d like to share a few of the highlights from the presentation

Over the past several decades, suicides in the military were generally at the same rate as in the general U.S. population, reaching about 10 per 100,000 people around 2003. However, since that time, general population suicides have gone up slightly to 12 per 100,000, while suicides in the military have exceeded 18 per 100,000. Here are a few other related statistics:

  • Every 14 minutes, someone in the United States dies from suicide.
  • Nearly 1 million people attempt suicide each year in the United States.
  • In 2010, more U.S. soldiers killed themselves (468) than died in combat (462).
  • This year, 2012, military suicides are averaging one per day.

The reasons for increasing suicides in the military are multifaceted, but more frequent deployments with shorter recovery periods in between are critical factors, as well as family and relationship problems back home. In addition, the increased use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide bombers creates an environment of constant stress and danger, which is exacerbated even further in Afghanistan, where the terrain is so mountainous and the roads so bad that troops are more vulnerable to being ambushed. These are just a few of the many factors that increase stress and pressure.

In assessing suicide risk, there is a wide range of personal, clinical, and protective factors that must be considered, but it begins with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously, including:

  • Increased alcohol/drug use
  • Reckless or risky behavior
  • Withdrawal, agitation, sleep issues
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Helplessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Worthlessness
  • Rage and anger

The main challenge in addressing the prevention of suicide in the military is overcoming the fear of stigma of having mental health problems. Soldiers, sailors, and marines, both male and female, are trained to be tough and often have to maintain a “macho” culture for survival in the battlefield. It is not easy to admit to themselves or others that they are depressed, stressed-out, anxious, or afraid. They don’t want to be seen by others as “weak,” “defective,” “disabled,” or worse, as “malingering.” So they keep these feelings inside or act them out through drinking and drugs, and it is extremely hard for them to ask for help when they need it.

We also discussed suicide risk assessment, including assessing the lethality of methods considered, as well as interventions and referrals. The key is to listen carefully and be caring and supportive, while ensuring an immediate referral to mental health professionals for those at-risk. Finally, we discussed dealing with the aftermath of a successful suicide. As you can imagine, this can be devastating for survivors, both in the field and at home.

Preventing suicide in the military, as well as among veterans who have served in battle, is an urgent and critical challenge. Overcoming stigmatization, identifying problems early on, and intervening in the most effective ways are imperative. But as stated by Capt. Paul S. Hammer, Director of the Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control, everyone can play an important role:

“One big thing that people neglect about suicide is the power of little things. So often we see that many people were dissuaded from hurting themselves by someone who made a very minor gesture that turned out to be huge.”

Jeff

Shaping Healthy Futures

What do we mean by our tagline, “Shaping Healthy Futures”? This could mean many different things to different people. To me, this phrase gets to the heart of the work that we do – we try to have a positive impact on the health, education, and welfare of children, families, and communities as they grow, develop, and transform. We have this impact through health communications and social media, training and technical assistance (T/TA), and monitoring and evaluation (M&E).

Through health communications and social media, we are trying to influence people’s behavior to discontinue unhealthy behaviors and to adopt healthier behaviors. We are trying to prevent infections, addictions, and other disorders. Through T/TA, we are educating and assisting professionals to adopt best practices in prevention and treatment programs. Through M&E, we are helping programs to improve their performance so that they can better serve children and families, resulting in healthier outcomes.

When I founded Danya International 15 years ago, our first contract was a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project for $100,000 to develop an online drug and alcohol screening assessment that we called DAPA. Although we were not able to commercialize the product, we still maintain it online at www.dapaonline.com, and it is a model for online assessment (we were ahead of our time…). This past month, 15 years later, we were awarded the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Behavioral Health Services, Information, Referral, Public Engagement and Communications Platform contract for the next 5 years. This major national contract builds on our experience with SBIRs, National Prevention Information Network (NPIN), Clinical Preceptorship Program, and many of our other projects, and it will give us the opportunity to have a real social impact on reducing drug use and addiction, as well as promoting mental health education across the country. This contract will allow us to shape healthy futures in a major way.

Our latest venture in shaping healthy futures in East Africa, expanding on our work in HIV and other infection prevention, is in promoting food security through both communications and M&E. This work involves assisting farmers to improve their productivity and business capabilities to provide stable and healthy food resources for the people in their countries, as well as develop viable healthy economic futures for themselves and their families.

So, what does “shaping healthy futures” mean to you? I encourage you to share your thoughts, stories, and ideas there on the blog and to have an exchange of ideas.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Chief Executive Officer

Danya Co-Sponsors CCA’s 8th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit

Danya is proud to co-sponsor the Corporate Council on Africa’s (CCA) 8th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit. This year, the Summit will be held October 5-7, 2011, at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC.

Danya has been deeply involved with CCA’s U.S.-Africa Summits for years, participating in planning committee meetings, sponsorships, and promotions. This year, Danya is co-sponsoring the eHealth: Connecting Policy, Information and People workshop on Thursday, October 6, with RTI International, Inc. Danya’s CEO, Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman, will deliver the welcoming remarks at the workshop.

The Summit includes more than 30 comprehensive plenary and workshop sessions, during which participants will obtain the latest information on trade and investment opportunities across Africa. With sessions led by U.S. and African leaders with successful ventures in Africa, the Summit focuses on Africa’s most promising sectors: health, infrastructure, energy, security, agribusiness, and power.

To learn more about the Summit, click here.