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Suzanne Wood Joins NWCPHP to Transform Health Services Delivery to Underserved Populations

NWCPHP faculty member Suzanne Wood, PhD, MS, FACHE, embarks on a new project to integrate primary care, behavioral health care, and social services to better address the underlying causes of health.
Suzanne Wood Joins NWCPHP to Transform Health Services Delivery to Underserved Populations

NWCPHP faculty member Suzanne Wood, PhD, MS

NWCPHP faculty member Suzanne Wood, PhD, MS, embarks on a new project to integrate primary care, behavioral health care, and social services to better address the underlying causes of health.

May 9, 2017

Primary care clinics around the country are exploring how to integrate their preventive services with behavioral health care and social services to better address the root causes of health—but it isn’t easy. Health Services faculty member Suzanne Wood, PhD, MS, recently joined with NWCPHP to help three leading health organizations in King County, Washington, tackle this challenge. “There is a real need for models that integrate a full range of services into clinical settings to address the underlying determinants of health,” said Wood.

Wood, who brings previous experience studying and implementing health systems reforms in the US Navy and other clinical settings, is at the forefront of building these much-needed models. As the principal investigator of a new grant from the Institute of Translational Health Sciences, she is leading an initiative to help Neighborcare Health, Public Health - Seattle & King County, and Valley Cities Behavioral Health Care establish a public-private partnership called the Meridian Center for Health.

The goal of this new alliance is to improve patient access to a range of interrelated services like dental care, mental health and substance use services, pharmacy, and maternity care. The idea is that providing more comprehensive care not only better supports patients, but also has broader, community-level impacts on the health of local residents.

“We’re delighted to have Suzanne leading this project in conjunction with our center because it aligns with our efforts to advance and improve upon public health and prevention systems,” said NWCPHP Director Betty Bekemeier, PhD, MPH, RN. “This work also strengthens linkages between academics and practitioners, and generates important evidence to help this approach work elsewhere.”

The Meridian Center for Health is a collaborative model, embedded in primary care delivery, which adopts a patient-centered approach for addressing “whole person” health. The format is increasingly recognized as an optimal solution to our fragmented health and social service systems. The approach is particularly important for minorities, people with low incomes, and others whose limited access to services has contributed to health disparities. “The degree of integration that these three agencies are trying to achieve is unprecedented,” said Wood.

Wood believes measuring what works will be important for teaching others how to adapt this approach in their settings. To assist in this, her team will create an integration framework and evaluation model to assess service delivery and meet with patients and other stakeholders to learn about their experiences. They will also explore key components for successfully implementing big organizational changes.

“Organizations embarking on planned change typically do well in the formulation stage,” said Wood. “The pitfalls lie in the implementation phase, where stakeholder buy-in and support from all levels of the organization are imperative. Problems can often be traced to a lack of communication about the initiative, its importance, and how individuals can align their work with strategic goals and objectives to drive movement on organizational priorities. We will attempt to avoid some of these pitfalls by addressing readiness for change as well as relevance of the effort, both of which influence stakeholder buy-in.”

The Meridian Center for Health project runs through the spring of 2018.

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