On the Horizon: Thinking about 2017 and Beyond

On the Horizon: Thinking about 2017 and Beyond

December 1, 2016

December 1, 2016 - With the holiday season and accompanying cold weather here, we at Healthcare Ready are thinking about our future programs along with many other organizations. It has been a big year for public health preparedness – from the release of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s new rule on emergency preparedness to finally securing funding for the Zika response – and we’re eager to carry the momentum and energy in the field into the coming year.

In thinking about the projects and areas in which we’d like to engage in 2017 and beyond, we identified two major themes that we’ll be using to guide our initiatives.

  • Cooperation with multiple sectors and groups: I know it may seem like many in the field talk about “cross sector coordination” seemingly constantly, but this is a good thing. This is one objective that is evergreen, a moving target – for better or worse, we can’t check a box and mark it done. In our expansion over the course of the year, we’ve seen that cooperation between sectors and groups remains a critical need, including the scientific community, patient advocacy networks and the science-based private sector actors. That’s why one of our major efforts in the coming year will be to continue to foster these relationships where we can.
  • Holistic look at health (and health resilience), with health equity and addressing healthcare disparities. Healthcare operations require many different sectors to operate – transportation, energy, IT, telecommunications – and as a result plans and policies in these arenas can negatively impact the delivery of care that a population or community receives simply because they did not fully consider their needs. In addition, developing health policies without factoring in other policies that affect health outcomes will prove short-sighted and result in few improvements in community health. This includes commitment to incorporation of health in all policies

Just as a hospital cannot function without power, supplies and well-trained people, health does not occur in a vacuum. We have to consider the surrounding policies that impact health outcomes in a meaningful way to ensure that the core issues are incorporated into health policy. Transportation and housing policy affects communities as much as health policy, so we need to have those folks in the conversation. I’ve been excited to see this happen, and hope that it continues.

With these two overarching themes as the foundation, additional areas in which we plan to engage are below. We’re eager to learn if these overlap with any of your organization’s or if there are opportunities to partner.

  • Enhanced coordination with the private sector and non-governmental stakeholders in the development of health policy.
    • The private sector funds a tremendous amount of the research and development that happens in science and biomedical research, and so they have a perspective which should be factored into policy-making. Similarly, there are a number of other stakeholders (advocacy groups, non-profit organizations) that are working on the practical applications of healthcare policy and would be a valuable voice in health policy conversations.
  • Emphasis on science communication and conveying both challenges and solutions to the public.
    • As a scientist, this is especially important to me. There is value in having technical experts at the table who are able to translate complex issues into everyday language. This is something that is improving, but still does not happen nearly enough as we try to explain the public’s role in mitigating issues like antimicrobial resistance or Zika transmission, for example. The CDC (and HHS at large) has done a fantastic job making information available for the public, but this needs to be a concerted effort which is prioritized by the next administration.
  • Dedicated efforts to engage communities in the development of solutions for community-level challenges.
    • Often policy makers and organizations only communicate with community level stakeholders after policies and programs are devised which will affect their group(s). This realization is particularly frustrating to me, as it ultimately wastes a lot of time which could be used learning from the community. It has been my experience that communities often know exactly what is needed to address their local concerns, and have networks in place to augment the resources that are sent their way.
  • Integration of healthcare preparedness and resilience into the mainstream health policy conversation.
    • If we’re thinking about incorporation, we should also think about making “resilience” and “preparedness” a fundamental component of health policy. As disasters are happening more frequently, the impact of these events almost always has a significant health component.
  • Devise strategies to leverage the best of existing resources and programs.
    • Instituting a rigorous review of the success of existing programs would ensure that federal funding and resources are being maximized and that the government is focusing on analyzing successes and building in accountability of each major program. While determining metrics is not always an easy task, we must take a hard look at how we’re using existing funding to determine if resources can be optimized in any way to improve efficiency.

Nicolette A. Louissaint, Ph.D.

Dr. Nicolette A. Louissaint is Director of Programming at Healthcare Ready. Prior to this position, Nicolette served as a Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. During the height of the Ebola Epidemic of 2014, Nicolette served as the Senior Advisor to the State Department’s Special Coordinator for Ebola. Nicolette earned a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, specializing in HIV Clinical Pharmacology from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She completed post-doctoral fellowships at the Johns Hopkins University and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.