Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play by addressing and encouraging healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/environmental factors and environmental exposures.
April 1-7, 2019, has been declared National Public Health Week to acknowledge the role public health plays in creating a culture of health in our cities, counties and tribes. This year’s theme is “Creating the Healthiest Nation. For science. For action. For health.” Two topics in this year’s recognition week – Healthy Communities and Rural Health – resonate with Great Plains QIN staff and directly correlate with Great Plains QIN healthcare quality improvement efforts across our region.
Great Plains QIN has team members who have worked in public health previously and/or who hold MPH degrees. In celebration of National Public Health Week, we have invited those individuals to share their insights and thoughts on the critical role of public health and how it intersects with Great Plains QIN work.
Building Healthy Communities
Before working at Great Plains QIN/Kansas Foundation for Medical Care, I worked in the Bureau of Health Promotion at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, where much of our work was focused on improving health at the community level. As the nation is learning, 99% of health activities take place outside of the healthcare provider’s office. People live in homes and communities and if these are not healthy places, they cannot adopt healthy behaviors and will suffer health consequences because of it. Great Plains QIN care coordination work connects to improving the health of our communities by facilitating the development of relationships with providers who can collectively work to address barriers that prevent community members from achieving the best possible health. Our self-management education programs bring members of communities together to support each other in their efforts to achieve better health outcomes. ~ Amanda Bridges, MBA, Director of Quality Improvement, Kansas.
Making System Level Transformation
It is an honor and a privilege to work at the ‘systems level’ of public health to transform medical practice from a culture of ‘sick and tertiary care’ to one of health, prevention and maintenance. While we have the greatest technology and research that has provided many life-preserving procedures, it comes at a tremendous cost and is often too little-too late. Our work assures that our healthcare system will evolve to provide a culture where all people have the resources they need to live healthy lives and reach their wellness potential. ~ Nikki Medalen, MS, BSN, Quality Improvement Specialist, North Dakota.
Integrating Community Health
Great Plains QIN has had a positive impact in helping hospitals and clinics understand and integrate community health into their practice. Working to normalize community health concepts within the clinic walls, such as the social determinants of health or community health workers, has created the opportunity to connect with community resources. Trying to meet patients where they are has begun to bridge providers with community partners who are addressing the same inequities. This bridge building is important to address the health of the whole patient, as well as creating an avenue to pool and share resources. Not only are we working with the clinical community to understand and integrate community health practices, we are also working with community partners to include care coordination and readmissions reduction into community initiatives. ~ Beth Nech, MA, Quality Improvement Consultant, Kansas
Supporting Community Wellness
Public health is about supporting the wellness of an entire community. It reaches beyond the doctor’s office to promote disease prevention, encourage community participation and advance the goal of health equity. Our work supports the aims of public health by working with practices to improve preventive screenings, collaborating with community partners to educate people on their health and giving medical providers the tools they need to reach out to the underserved people in their community. ~ Kat Panas, MPH, Quality Improvement Consultant, Kansas
Strengthening Relationships for Improved Tribal Health
Creating a healthy community requires communication and coordination among various community stakeholders. Sharing information/data, setting strategic goals, identifying community priorities and advocating for policy change is much more effective as a collaborative than any one organization attempting to create change alone. This communication also helps identify duplication and/or gaps in services among the community. As the Community Engagement Advocate for the Partnership to Advance Tribal Health (PATH) project in North Dakota, I have witnessed the development or strengthening of relationships between Indian Health Services, Tribes, State programs, patients and families, and various other stakeholders working to improve health outcomes in Tribal communities. I look forward to watching these relationships grow and will to continue advocating for these much-needed partnerships. ~ Tasha Peltier, MPH, CPH, Community Engagement Advocate, North Dakota
Public health works in countless ways to make our communities better places to work, live and play. Great Plains QIN is proud to contribute to this work through our role as the QIN-QIO in this region. Visit our website to learn more about our initiatives and gain access to tools and resources that help improve health and healthcare across our states.