Kruse Scholar Perspective: Al Wazwaz: A Step in the Right Direction

A Step in the Right Direction.

This past semester, I worked as a student consultant for a primary care clinic in St. Paul, Minnesota.  We were given the ambiguous task of transforming the care delivery process for primary care.  That got me thinking about a key strategy that I feel is a stepping stone to Communities of Excellence, the idea of population health management.  Although population health management is specific to health care, I believe to effectively achieve this goal, you must include multiple community partners in the complete care of patients.

I was able to conduct multiple interviews with patients, providers, and administrative leaders to try and understand the needs of the diverse patient population that is seen at this specific clinic.  The overarching consensus was clear, both social and mental determinants of health played a greater role in improving their current condition.  Given my understanding of population health management and Communities of Excellence, I was able to recommend multiple strategies that link the clinic to community support organizations. 

The difficulty lied in gaining buy-in from all parties involved.  There is this notion that healthcare organizations should not be responsible for assisting patients in other factors that influence their lives: employment, housing, education, etc.  The notion is that there are already organizations that offer these services to the community.  However, given the unique role that healthcare organizations play in a community, it is much more convenient to assist patients with these services at the same location they are receiving their health care.  After this was explained in more detail, it was easier for those within the organization to understand the important role they play in a community member’s life. 

This experience helped me think forward into the future of population health management.  If we look at this concept with a clearer lens, achieving communities of excellence is the main goal of population health management.  By elevating and improving the various sectors of a community, the resources necessary to achieve population health management would positively impact the social and mental determinants of health that individuals are dealing with on a daily basis. 

That leads me to believe that the Communities of Excellence initiative is attainable given its stark alignment with population health management.  Although the Communities of Excellence initiative looks deeper into developing a framework that can successfully improve multiple sectors of a community, it is evident that pursuing that buy-in from the healthcare sector may be easier than I originally expected.  Social and mental determinants of health need to be further immersed into the field of primary care, and elevating the status of these community resources is a step in the right direction. 

*Learn more about Al Wazwaz here

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