Over the last decade, community-based organizations, educational entities and health system leaders across the U.S. have increasingly worked together to address complex challenges that underserved children and families in their cities, states and regions face. Collectively, the field continues to learn and define the value of streamlining and coordinating the delivery of a range of essential services across sectors. Beyond coordination of service delivery, the field is coming to a collective realization that advocacy and policy development efforts have great potential for institutionalizing gains for the most affected individuals, while contributing to systems changes necessary to impact social determinants of health in ways that improve the quality of life for entire communities.
Coordinating cross-sector work in a community or region requires one or more entities to carry out integrative activities* that allow the sum total of the network’s efforts to achieve more than any individual member can do alone. Population health integrators* play this convening role in the interest of helping networks advance population- level solutions to social problems that compromise the health and well-being of children and families in a given geography. While the literature around the structure and functioning of these multi-sector networks targeting population-level health goals has proliferated, an opportunity remains to better understand the mechanics of how hospitals & health systems join, catalyze, and contribute to the sustainability of these efforts.
Language shifts with one’s understanding of concepts. The terminology below reflects our thinking at the time this work occurred.
Population Health Networks: Networks that work intentionally and systematically across sectors to achieve shared goals specific to improved health and wellness outcomes for an entire geographically-defined community
Population Health Integrators: Entities that have formally agreed to take leadership and accountability (alone or in concert with other network members) for specific integrative activities within a population health network as a means of supporting the network’s cross-sector goals
Integrative Activities: Governance, management, and administrative functions that enable population health networks to carry out tasks and strategies related to the network’s shared population health goals
Project Timeline + Content Dashboard
The two-year initiative included a series of activities with integrator networks from around the country. The work was also informed by a number of academics and experts in the related fields of health care, public health, population health health equity, and multi-sector networks. The phases of work and documents produced are as follows:
Revisiting and Refining the Integrator Concept
- Winter 2018 & Spring 2019
- Completed a summary of evidence related to integrators and multi-sector population health networks. Evidence informed Nemours Children’s thinking on the design of various elements of the initiative.
- Summer & Fall 2019
- Interviewed 40 experts engaged in academic work and/or real-world work related to integrators and population health networks.
- Winter 2019 & Spring 2020
- 1. Published themes from expert interviews: “Preliminary Findings on the Role of Health Care in Multi-Sector Networks for Population Health: Notes from the Field”
- 2. Selected networks to participate in Integrator Learning Lab.
- 3. Built a cadre of experts to serve as faculty for the Lab.
Testing, Applying, and Further Refining the Best/Promising Practices for Integrators
- Spring, Summer, Fall 2020
- Facilitated the Nemours 2020 Integrator Learning Lab– a learning collaborative focused on strengthening use of integrative roles and functions within cross-sector networks, in order to accelerate work toward the shared population health goals of participating networks.
Sense-Making & Sharing with the Field
- Fall & Winter 2020
- 1. Conducted close-out interviews with networks participating in the Lab to capture insights, reflections, and advice for the field.
- 2. Updated profiles for networks that participated in the Integrator Learning Lab, adding the Lab-related achievements of each network
- 3. Published the “Take 2” series– two reflections and two pieces of advice from leaders of population health networks, focused on Forming Networks; Re-Invigorating Integrative Networks; Deepening Community Engagement; and Planning for Network Sustainability.
- Spring 2021
- Published a collection of videos, tools for action, and insights from our Integrator Learning Lab.
- Published a blog post on population health networks and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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