There are lots of reasons I’m grateful for what I get to do for a living, from the smart, passionate and compassionate people I’m honored to work with; to the promise (and reality) of advancing knowledge that can improve entire systems; and, most of all, to the deep belief that Stewards of Change Institute (SOCI) contributes to meaningful progress for the health and well-being of people in our country – especially those who need progress the most.
Those things all make my job genuinely rewarding. For the geek in me, here’s what makes it fun: New information, innovations and even ways of thinking are woven into the fabric of the work, which makes it interesting and energizing almost every day. As SOCI prepares for more adventures on the road to greater interoperability in 2019, I’d like to share just a few examples:
- There was teaching and learning galore at our latest symposium, which took place in Connecticut last November under the aegis of SOCI’s ambitious National Interoperability Collaborative (NIC) project. Judging from the feedback from participants, the event hit the mark in every way we’d hoped, from jump-starting the NIC “chapter” in New England; to furthering collaboration among senior leaders and professionals across all six states in the region; to providing rich, interactive, multi-sector content that highlighted the importance of “upstream” solutions to more-effectively address problems ranging from early childhood issues to racial bias in research to the nation’s opioid epidemic.
We’re very grateful to our event collaborators and supporters: the New England States Consortium Systems Organization, the New England Association of Child Welfare Commissioners and Directors, the Connecticut Department of Social Services, the Kresge Foundation, IBM, the Milbank Memorial Fund and our NIC leadership partner, Academy Health. More information about the symposium is on the NIC Collaboration Hub, including graphic murals that provide a vivid representation of its sessions and insights.
- We’re in the late stages of planning for our next two major efforts to extend SOCI’s teaching and learning – a national Community Information Exchange Summit in conjunction with 2-1-1 San Diego in April and the NIC Opioid Use Disorder Prevention Playbook, a unique and exciting publication that’s set for release next month.
Organizing and participating in convenings of thought, policy and practice leaders is one key way in which SOCI strategically accomplishes its mission of “initiating, inspiring and instilling transformational change in health and human services systems at all levels of government, industry and nonprofits.” So, for instance, our recent NIC symposium in Connecticut was part of a bigger vision that leads up to the CIE Summit, which is still accepting presentation proposals. Our strategy also included my participation in a federal conference in December, organized by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the federal Administration for Children and Families, focusing on “A Whole Family Approach to Jobs: Helping Parents Work and Children Thrive” – an ambitious initiative that comports with SOCI’s own cross-sector, multi-generational approach to its work.
- That approach is front-and-center in our upcoming Opioid Playbook, which highlights 11 prevention-focused programs, initiatives and strategies (which we call “plays”) that are being attempted around our country to “get upstream” of the most-severe public health crisis in modern U.S. history. Our intent is to increase awareness of the need for more prevention-related activities and to provide ideas to jurisdictions and organizations about specific actions they can take. More information about the Playbook, as well as about the epidemic and its consequences, is regularly posted in the Opioid Group on the NIC Collaboration Hub; we invite you to join and participate in the conversation!
- One final bit of learning (for now) that we intend to infuse into all of our relevant activities going forward. SOCI long ago joined the chorus of professional voices advocating for the inclusion of the Social Determinants of Health and Well-Being into the work of every organization that strives to improve the lives and life prospects of people in our country, especially those who are underserved or discriminated against because of their poverty, race or social status. What we have come to realize is that the commonly used abbreviation for “where we live work and play” – i.e., the Social Determinants of Health, usually abbreviated as SDOH – doesn’t send the right message for a couple of reasons.
First, while we agree about the intent of the word “determinants,” we also hope and believe that any single factor or factors don’t really decide a person’s future; they can strongly influence it, but they aren’t necessarily determinative. Furthermore, it seems to us that the term “well-being” is the key since it encompasses health and much more, so just using SDOH connotes that “health” itself is the objective of our efforts. So, in short, we’re going to use the acronym SDOHW from now on – and we’re going to talk about “social and economic influences of well-being” whenever we can.
Please join us in reshaping language, policy and practice by joining the National Interoperability Collaborative, by participating in the NIC Collaboration Hub, by attending the CIE Summit, by reading and contributing to the NIC Opioid Misuse Prevention Playbook and by continuing the important work you do every day. We want you with us because, well, that’s the way we learn.
On behalf of all of us at SOCI and NIC, we wish you a healthy, happy and successful year ahead.