The Public Health National Center for Innovations: Strengthening Innovation in Public Health
by Travis Parker Lee
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.
The Public Health National Center for Innovations, a division of the Public Health Accreditation Board, was established to identify, implement, and spread innovations in public health practice to help meet the health challenges of the 21st century. PHNCI has awarded nine public health organizations a combined $1.55 million to advance practice through the development, testing, and implementation of innovative practices that other public health departments can adapt to their communities’ needs.
The nine grantees will focus on a variety of challenges across the public health landscape from promoting nutrition to engaging at-risk communities. The grantees and focus areas include:
- Baltimore City Health Department (MD) is working to increase access to healthy food by supporting the implementation of the USDA’s online SNAP pilot; providing support for residents and grocers; and advocating for program policies and processes that maximize accessibility of online grocery ordering and delivery. The project will create a train-the-trainer learning network to develop tools for implementation of online SNAP orders in community sites (e.g. libraries, schools).
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is advancing its statewide Health in All Policies approach to deliver a community leadership coaching model and community engagement workshop to government leaders. The efforts aim to increase capacity for collaboration; form an equity alliance; harness data to decrease inequities; and leverage state dollars to support local policy change and spur cross-disciplinary networks through an equity summit.
- DuPage County Health Department (IL) is advancing cross-sector strategies to conduct follow-up visits with individuals with mental health issues who have previously encountered law enforcement and link them to the appropriate care. The project will examine opportunities for data collection and analysis, including standardizing Uniform Crime Reporting codes used to document mental health-related calls to law enforcement.
- Garrett County Health Department (MD) is driving community planning participation through low-cost digital tools. The project will develop a Universal Community Planning Tool through the development of a manager plug-in that installs inherited open-source libraries, ensuring future, low-cost updates with minimal overhead.
- Kansas Association of Local Health Departments is implementing the foundational public health services (FPHS) by engaging cross-sector partners to determine the feasibility of applying the model in a rural, decentralized state. Through planning, piloting, and documenting the implementation and evaluating the use of cross-jurisdictional sharing for specific FPHS components, this project will develop a modernization roadmap and create a performance management system with measures for each component of the model.
- Minnesota Department of Health is convening a learning community to help six local health departments transform the way they do business to advance health equity by aligning programs and resources with the organizational commitment to health equity; working in true partnership with the community; and working at the policy level on the social conditions that affect health.
- Pima County Health Department (AZ) is implementing Mothers in Arizona Moving Ahead, a pilot project focused on individual and systems-level changes that improve health outcomes and financial stability for mothers and children living in poverty. The project will provide more responsive care for people living in poverty, and will build social capital across economic class as it engages and educates new sectors for a deeper understanding of poverty, while increasing political will to undertake lasting community change.
- Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (WA) is creating an authentic civic engagement opportunity with visible results using participatory budgeting. The process gives community members the authority and resources to respond rapidly and directly to the root causes of their health problems, reduce the scale and duration of problems, and improve feelings of connectedness and well-being by participating. The project will initiate multiple projects that directly reflect community health priorities by implementing a participatory budgeting process focused on two schools in East Side Tacoma.
- University of Chicago Center for Spatial Data Science and School of Social Service Administration is developing a scalable, open‐source spatial analytic framework and web‐based tool to help officials improve the match between where public funds for health and health‐related social services are sent within Chicago and need. The project will enhance the ability to analyze geographic access to services and address gaps in care; maximize the impact of existing resources; and offer a replicable tool for others to improve their own distributions of public funds.
PHNCI invites the field to follow the grantees’ journeys over the next year to learn about how their initiatives might be applicable to adapt, adopt, or replicate in other communities.
- Travis Parker Lee, MBA, is the Program Specialist for the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI) at the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), contributing to efforts to align and foster innovation in public health practice. Previously, he served as a Program Specialist for PHAB for six years.
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