Musings from Our 10th Annual Symposium – and Planning for Another Decade of Progress

The title of last week’s 10th Anniversary Stewards of Change Symposium was quite a mouthful – “Harnessing the Power of Information Operability and Social Determinants to Advance Health and Wellness Integration” – but I’m very glad to report that it provided just the right focus and framing for the event. I’m even happier to report that many of our 100+ attendees left saying they were inspired by what they’d heard and learned – and, best of all, many said that the knowledge they acquired would enable them to make substantive improvements in their own organizations’ projects and practices.

On behalf of all of us at the Stewards of Change Institute, I extend my sincere thanks to everyone who attended – presenters and invited guests alike – for your kind words, your invaluable input and your active participation. Deep thanks as well to our Symposium partner, the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, and to our generous sponsors: the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, IBM, Google, Deloitte, CGI and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This unique annual event is a team effort, and we couldn’t be more grateful to and proud of the collaborators who make it possible.

For those of you who joined us on the beautiful Johns Hopkins campus in Baltimore, as well as for those who couldn’t make it, please keep an eye on the Stewards website over the next few days and weeks. There, you’ll find videos of all three days’ of last week’s sessions, murals summarizing the teaching and learning that took place, and a new short video celebrating the 10thAnniversary of this special annual event. Please take a look, feel free to use what’s there and, of course, share your thoughts and suggestions. 

Here are a few observations from our own perspective, after having listened to the accomplished presenters who joined us from around the country and across numerous professional realms:

  • While progress on incorporating Social Determinants and Interoperability isn’t as quick or comprehensive as we’d like it to be (or as we’re working to make it), there are big reasons for optimism. One speaker after the other described concrete plans, programs and projects that are being initiated from coast to coast and within governments at all levels.
  •  Interest in these important subjects is increasingly imbedded and growing. One indicator of that reality was the attendance at our Symposium of so many new people from new agencies and sectors. Their interest, energy and enthusiasm was clear, infectious and heartening.
  • It was invigorating to hear and experience a renewed commitment on the part of federal agencies to work across boundaries of the health, human services, public health and justice domains. We anticipate a major announcement from Washington very soon that we believe will help drive the field forward even more rapidly and comprehensively.

Maybe most pointedly – especially given the title of the Symposium – this was especially encouraging: After decades of discussion about the Social Determinants of Health, the understanding that they must become integral pieces of the HHS puzzle is finally taking hold. Thanks, big time, to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for its “Culture of Health” initiative, which is accelerating this necessary change.

Thanks to the Foundation, too, for the generous grant it recently provided for the Stewards of Change Institute to create a unique, multi-media Social Determinants and Interoperability Resource/Guide that will provide valuable information, guidance and tools on utilizing interoperability and information technology to enable the integration of Social Determinants and to support other national efforts in this realm, including work at the Office of National Coordinator, RWJF’s own “Culture of Health” and by passionate advocates across the U.S.

Please stay tuned for the Guide, which we plan to publish this fall, and for much more from SOCI in the months and years to come. We’re very proud of all we’ve accomplished during the past decade, and feel confident that the best is yet to come. Thanks one and all for your assistance, guidance and support; we look forward to many more successful journeys, and much more progress, together.

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