By Daniel Stein, President, Stewards of Change Institute

As I digest the daily news about the coronavirus calamity, I’m reminded in a big way of our nation’s response to the last major public health emergency; i.e., the opioid epidemic. (It’s still with us, of course, and getting worse, but that’s a blog for another day.) A common denominator between these two crises is that the primary emphasis has been on saving lives, now and into the future. That, of course, is the right priority. 

At the same time, however, it appears that once again we’re not seeing the “opportunity” that a major health crisis like the pandemic presents. That is, to seize the moment to make bold and systemic changes, ones that will enable us to make strides – and not just take small steps – to better detect, mitigate and otherwise get ahead of the next major threat to our collective health and well-being. The bottom-line idea is to ensure that the right information, in the right dose, gets to the right people, in the right way and at the right time. 

Based on our 15 years of experience facilitating and advancing systems change, Stewards of Change Institute (SOCI) strongly believes there’s a highly achievable way our country can further that goal. Simply put, it’s to dramatically accelerate, integrate and leverage the concurrent implementation of both interoperability and the Social Determinants of Health and Well-Being. It’s the combination of those two approaches that’s the key, because we know for certain that they are effective ways of promoting progress in health, human services and other domains that impact all of our lives. 

Remediating Disparities and Driving Equity

The value of finally, fully grasping the power of bringing together those approaches is that doing so will contribute to two huge advances at once: meaningfully remediating the racial, socioeconomic and health disparities that the pandemic continues to expose every day; while also building a more-effective, person-centered and equitable health/healthcare system, one in which collaboration and secure information-sharing with human/social services and other key domains becomes routine and expected. 

We invite you – individually or through your organization – to join us in pursuing this mission by personally participating in, contributing financially to, or in other ways supporting SOCI’s new National Action Agenda to Advance Upstream Social Determinants and Health Equity. We’re conducting this work through our National Interoperability Collaborative (NIC)

We’ve already assembled a growing team of highly respected researchers, subject-matter experts, technologists, policy and practice officials at all levels (community, state and federal), and other professionals across programs, systems and domains. And we would welcome your involvement in any of the workgroups that they’ve formed. Similarly, to make this work concrete, substantive and realistic (i.e., not just another well-intentioned plan that winds up on yet another shelf), we are actively seeking sponsorships, in-kind contributions and other financial support for this ambitious effort. Support our work >>

Your Support Will Keep Our Vital Work Going

I hope it’s clear that, even with limited resources, we’ve already been able to make significant progress this year. But like so many other nonprofits, our ability to move forward is being threatened every day by the economic upheaval in our country, and I think we can all agree that there’s so much left to do. We know there are many other highly impactful organizations also striving to achieve similar goals – systemic change and health equity – but we feel confident that our approach is not only unique, but also has the very real prospect of being successful. There’s only one way to find out, and that is to provide your support. So that is what we’re asking you to do now, and you’ll be in very good company.

For starters, there’s the Kresge Foundation, which enabled us to build NIC into the highly effective effort it is today. Then there are our sponsors/contributors for the Equity Action Agenda, which already include the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, Mitre Corporation, the Michigan Health Information Network (MiHIN), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Data Across Sectors for Health (DASH)BrightHive Data Trusts and FEI Systems. And there are a growing number of additional supporters such as the Pew Charitable Trusts, for which we’re conducting a civil justice technology project that will further broaden the Equity Action Agenda. 

If you are part of an organization or philanthropy that focuses on the critically important issues we’re addressing, please consider joining this diverse group of supporters. If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. Please read through the details of NIC’s sponsorship levels to determine which one might be right for your organization and support our work >> 

The Strategic, Integrated Elements of Our Unique Initiative include:

  • Our 14th National Symposium in early 2021, in collaboration with Stanford University’s Center on Population Health. This event will be the culmination of all the strategic, step-by-step activities outlined in this blog, and the symposium itself will focus on crystalizing, launching and, most importantly, implementing specific policy and practice actions. A few speakers to date – most of whom will also participate in the broader Action Agenda – include Dave Ross, CEO of the Taskforce for Global Health; Kshemendra Paul, Chief Data Officer for the U.S. Veterans Administration; Alfonso Lara Montero, Chief Executive of the European Social Network; Dr. Karen Smith, former Director of the CA Department of Public Health (who is co-leading the Action Agenda); David Rehkopf, Director of the Stanford Center for Population Health Studies; Pierre-Gerlier Forest, Director of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary; and Michael Wilkening, Special Advisor on Innovation and Digital Services to the Governor of CA; among others.   
  • A Proof of Concept implementation, titled Project Unify, to demonstrate that health-related data can be shared reliably and securely across Human Services and other domains critical to SDOH. The goal is to enable interoperability of a kind and to an extent that hasn’t been done before.
  • A webinar series focused on developing the Action Agenda and integrating it into the symposium; these interactive discussions are led by Dr. Smith, joined by our Stanford colleagues and other prominent thought leaders, innovators and subject-matter experts.
  • Collaboration with Stanford faculty (and others) to ensure this work is informed by research. Broad collaboration is also a fundamental element of the Equity Action Agenda because we believe that shaping additional research and activities is critical to ensuring this initiative grows into the future.
  • Outreach, advocacy and an ongoing workgroup on the Collaboration Hub of SOCI’s National Interoperability Collaborative (NIC). We will also provide key learning/recommendations from the symposium, webinars and workgroup in a white paper, and will further extend this knowledge as a course in our new InterOptimability Training and Certification Curriculum.

We are living in strange and unnerving times. But we unambiguously believe that we are being presented with a singular opportunity to instigate and implement fundamental, generational, historic change. With your help, participation and support, we feel deeply confident that it can happen. Support our work >> 


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