State Wants Public Health Innovations

California health officials on Thursday called on entrepreneurs and community innovators across the state to come up with out-of-the-box ideas for changing health approaches in six broad categories.

It’s called the Let’s Get Healthy Innovation Challenge and is part of the plan advanced by Let’s Get Healthy California task force, a stakeholder task force convened by the governor and the California Health and Human Services agency to make major changes in the health of the state’s residents.

“This innovation challenge feeds into the overall push at Let’s Get Healthy to involve more people,” said Katie Hiedorn, deputy secretary for special programs at CHHS. “We’re casting a really wide net. We’re looking for a broad set of innovations.”

For instance, she said, a community project in the Central Valley called the Kern County Greenfield Walking Group has taken an innovative approach to public health by not only getting Latino mothers to walk daily, but also by refurbishing a park and the unsightly path on the way to that park.

Let’s Get Healthy has always had an annual internal meeting of stakeholders, but this year that meeting will be opened to public participation, Hiedorn said.

The annual gathering will be held in early 2016, and it will feature the finalists of the innovation challenge and a website launch to accompany the project, said Karin Caves, deputy secretary for communications at CHHS.

“We’re doing a website launch, and we’re expanding social media to get the word out,” Caves said. “This is something new; we want to reach beyond the usual group of stakeholders as well as include them. It’s definitely a population health and public health effort we’re promoting.”

The six categories for health innovation are:

  • Beginning of life care, including safer births, reducing childhood trauma and increasing vaccination rates;
  • Chronic disease care, including tobacco use prevention and cutting down on conditions such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure;
  • End of life care, including palliative care and late-stage hospitalization;
  • Redesigning the health care system, including access issues;
  • Improving community health by promoting exercise and access to healthier food; and
  • Lowering the cost of care, including payment and integrated system reforms.

“We want to see new ways of creating healthy communities,” Hiedorn said, “and improve public health, and look at new ways of looking at the patient centered medical home. … You don’t have to be a health care insider to get what we’re talking about.”

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