The Public Health National Center for Innovations: Fostering Public Health Innovations

This entry is part 6 of 42 in the series Focus on Accreditation and Innovation

by Jessica Solomon Fisher, MCP

Focus on Accreditation and Innovation addresses current issues related to the Public Health Accreditation Board’s national public health department accreditation program, and the Public Health National Center for Innovations. This series highlights the experiences and perspectives of accredited health departments and explores topics related to the Standards and Measures, research and evaluation findings, and the latest innovations in public health practice.

Jessica Solomon Fisher, MCP

Jessica Solomon Fisher, MCP

The need for innovation in public health practice is clear. Emerging public health threats require rapid response, as illustrated with Zika virus-induced birth defects, the opioid epidemic, and the increase in number and type of natural disasters. At the same time, there is a growing body of evidence on how a community’s social and physical environments significantly impact the health of people living and working in the community, and thus the need to address these determinants of health to achieve health equity. Effective interventions require cross-sector partnership. The rapidly changing context for health care delivery means that health departments must be nimble for partnerships between public health and health care sectors to be effective. A variety of common challenges pose barriers to innovation in public health, not the least of which have been repeated budget cuts. In addition, many public health departments have outmoded technology, or have policies that restrict their ability to use social media and other modern communication methods. Moreover, many departments have tremendous amounts of data but they are buried in siloes created by traditional government funding requirements for compliance in separate processes and databases. Despite these challenges, there are bright spots in innovation in public health, with emerging innovations that are then picked up, adapted and adopted by other departments. Emerging technologies are continually changing the way people communicate and industries operate, and these 21st century changes need to be incorporated in public health. Public health practice must be transformed in order to remain relevant, improve people’s lives, and ensure that funds are used in the most efficient and effective manner.

After months of development and refinement, the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI) is pleased to announce that Innovation in Governmental Public Health: Building a Roadmap is now available! This roadmap aims to describe what innovation in public health practice might look like as health departments consider, develop, and implement innovation ideas. This work is being considered as an early developmental concept, which will be improved over time. Therefore, the definition, characteristics, and organizational culture listed should all be considered as “working” for now, with more definitive versions to be developed over time as PHNCI learns more from the public health field.

PHNCI, a division of the Public Health Accreditation Board, was established to help foster a multi-sector learning community that will help identify and test new and innovative practices to improve public health capacity. PHNCI will encourage innovations in public health, in part, by engaging a network of stakeholders, including representatives from all levels of public health practice, health policy, financing, and other sectors. Moving forward, PHNCI will continue to focus on health development, testing and dissemination of models of innovation and will serve as the coordinating body for a number of allied, national initiatives being applied at health departments across the country.

Jessica Solomon Fisher, MCP, is the Chief Innovations Officer for the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI) at the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), leading efforts to align and foster innovation in public health practice. Previously, she served as a Senior Advisor of Public Health Programs for the National Association of County and City Health Officials and in various other capacities at NACCHO during a 13-year tenure. She received her Master of Community Planning degree from the University of Maryland at College Park. [Full bio]


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