September 11 2015

America’s workforce, our economy, and our children’s futures depend on people living in healthy, thriving communities. Prevention of disease and injury is critical to this vision of health and wellbeing—so it’s wonderful to see that interest in wide-scale prevention is expanding at the local, state, and federal level. More than ever, people realize that prevention is an effective way to save lives, reduce misery, and often reduce costs.

In a new report, Prevention Institute (PI) deeply examines a transformational model of health that’s gaining steam in the U.S. — one in which community and healthcare entities partner up to emphasize community prevention of illness and injury in the first place. Accountable Communities for Health (ACH) are emerging as a promising framework for healthcare to join with communities in boosting population health.

California is on record as supporting the ACH concept. I was pleased to be part of an ACH workgroup convened by the California Health and Human Services agency in 2014, and excited to see ACHs included in our State Innovation Model (SIM) grant proposal to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMI) last year.  I believe PI’s new report, Accountable Communities for Health: Opportunities and Recommendations can help contribute to the thinking about what an ACH can look like in practice.

In this report, commissioned by the state of Vermont, PI profiles five sites from around the country engaged in work aligned with ACH principles, as well as similar regional efforts across Vermont. The report offers recommendations for how to strengthen existing work, and extensively details the core elements that, taken together, can realize the full potential of an ACH model. We also looked at what states can do to support and enhance the efforts of their regions that are implementing ACH elements, and how they can cultivate strong retention of community prevention in the process.

Our profile of a California program, “Live Well San Diego” (pages 39-46 of the report), illustrates the ACH model of reducing costs, enhancing quality of care, and boosting population health by linking community efforts with healthcare.  Live Well San Diego innovations include:

  • Going beyond traditional concepts of health to implement a cross-cutting strategic framework supported by county government and community partners
  • Partnering closely with school districts to update their wellness policies to better support health, as well as creating specific organizational policies to support safe routes to schools
  • Working with cities to improve pedestrian safety laws to encourage active transportation
  • Generating a creative set of 10 primary indicators to monitor progress in achieving a healthy, safe, and thriving community

By exploring an ACH approach that highlights prevention and partnership, the nation is moving toward a more effective and equitable system of health.  It’s clear that across the U.S., leaders in healthcare, public health, government, business, and other sectors recognize that conditions in the community environment have an enormous impact on health.

California leads the nation in strong, community-based prevention efforts. ACHs are a great structure for healthcare and community sectors to partner together to advance community health, and we look forward to working across California to put ACHs into practice.

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