Stakeholder Health: Q&A with Kimberlydawn Wisdom

Nov 6, 2013, 11:42 AM


Stakeholder Health, formerly known as the Health Systems Learning Group, is a learning collaborative made up of 43 organizations, including 36 nonprofit health systems, that have met for close to two years to share innovative practices aimed at improving health and economic viability of communities.

The idea for the learning collaborative came from a series of meetings at the White House Office and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships. The Stakeholder Health administrative team is based at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare Center for Excellence in Faith and Health in Memphis, Tenn., and at Wake Forest Baptist Health System in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided a grant to share the group’s findings and lessons learned.

Earlier this year, Stakeholder Health released a monograph to help identify proven community health practices and partnerships. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, MD, MS, Senior Vice President of Community Health & Equity and Chief Wellness Officer at the Henry Ford Health System was a key contributor to the monograph.

NewPublicHealth recently spoke to Wisdom about Stakeholder Health’s objectives, goals and emerging successes, which she also presented on at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Boston.

NewPublicHealth: What are examples of implementation of the Stakeholder Health recommendations at the Henry Ford Health System?

Kimberlydawn Wisdom: There are several. Stakeholder Health talks quite a bit about transformative partnerships and the importance of those transformative partnerships. And we have some stellar examples here in southeast Michigan of transformative partnerships, and one that I’d like to point to in particular is an effort we established called Sew Up the Safety Net, which addresses decreasing the infant mortality rate in our region, which is appallingly high.

We’ve developed a partnership with three other competing health systems within the Detroit region. So while on one level we are very strong competitors, on another level, we’ve actually joined our strategies and resources together in order to address the infant mortality challenge that we have in our communities. We also have private partners and public partners that are involved with us at various levels, but I think having that unprecedented partnership with competing health systems and getting real work done is something that we’re very proud of and work very hard to maintain.

Another example is our healthcare equity campaign to help us move from health disparities to healthcare equity. One of the key chapters in the monograph we produced last summer talks about the quadruple aim of addressing better care, better health, lower cost and healthcare equity.

A third example the monograph talks about is taking unmanaged charity care and moving it more toward improved health outcomes on such issues as childhood obesity, nutrition and physical activity, among others. We have grant funding, as well as system funding, to help us address improving health outcomes overall in our community and addressing complex situations and complex patients in complex neighborhoods and settings.

NPH: What transformations have taken place at Henry Ford that have improved your ability to help change population health in your community?

Wisdom: It starts off with a major commitment to community. Not just paying lip service or doing it simply to maintain 501C3 tax exempt nonprofit status, but to do it because it’s truly part of your mission and the vision of the organization.

At Henry Ford we spent about nine months developing our new vision by conducting focus groups with patients, with employees, with community members, with board members, and we ultimately voted on a vision statement that says we will be transforming lives and communities through health and wellness one person at a time. So it’s in our organizational structure, it’s in our vision statement and it’s in our reporting structure.

I think part of our ability to be transformational is that we have applied for and received a good number of grants which we are using to help us pilot newer and more innovative ways of doing things. And then we work very hard to incorporate that into how we conduct business from thereafter.

NPH: What partnership strategies are critical in helping to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and improve community health?

Wisdom: I think a key strategy is to value the diverse partners that we have. We have partners that include federally qualified health centers, faith-based organizations, public health organizations, health systems, neighborhood service organizations, coalitions and health councils. Other key strategies include understanding our partners well and also linking partners to really create kind of a safety net of services. And I think those strategies have not only helped with unnecessary hospitalizations, but also help with improving health and wellbeing across the board by taking that safety net approach.

We’ve also introduced our partners to new types of workforce structures, and one I would mention is incorporating community health workers as a key part of the workforce. We have introduced that concept to various organizations and they’ve embraced it and taken that on. So I think another important strategy is to introduce partners to newer ways and more innovative ways of doing things and then having them embrace it. I think that is certainly a real win across the board for the organizations, as well as for the community.

>>NewPublicHealth will be on the ground throughout the APHA conference speaking to public health leaders and presenters, hearing from attendees on the ground and providing updates from sessions, with a focus on how we can build a culture of health. Follow the coverage here.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.