The magazine of the UW School of Public Health

From the Editor: Innovation in Public Health

Susan Allan

For our communities and our public health organizations, the current era is one of new or increased challenges and changes. While there are many aspects of the current situation that are unsettling, with reduced funding in many areas and questions about the legitimate role of government, this issue demonstrates the positive ways that many in public health organizations are responding with new ideas and innovative approaches. The theme for this issue of Northwest Public Health, “Innovative approaches to improving the public’s health,” was chosen to highlight the impressive work underway across the region and to encourage thought and discussion around the important topic of public health innovation.

A number of the articles in this issue describe innovative approaches by public health organizations to increase excellence and efficiency in response to constrained resources. An article by staff at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services describes a systematic approach to increase childhood immunization rates. Another article highlights a research project in eastern Washington that shows how telephone-based cognitive behavioral therapy can expand access to mental health services for rural Latino populations. Readers may also learn how Oregon public health has taken steps to make it easier to include climate change strategic planning in the work health departments already do. And Public Health - Seattle & King County contributed an article that describes important considerations for health departments exploring the use of texting technology to reach the public.

Another way public health in our region is responding with innovation is by expanding partnerships. Clark County Public Health in southwestern Washington has successfully transitioned its clinical services to a federally qualified health clinic, thereby increasing access and lowering health department costs. An article describes a multi-state research project that created a database from the data health departments routinely collect. Mutual Assistance Agreements between local public health jurisdictions and tribal governments are explored in another article. The theme of working across sectors is continued in an article from central Oregon that shows how that region has formed networks to improve population health and get ready to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Researchers in Oregon describe how they have used community-based participatory research to map a community’s “age-friendliness.”

Looking to the future for public health innovation, we include the perspective of the newest generation of public health workers with a student viewpoint article from a recently-graduated master’s in public health (MPH) student who is looking for work. We also have a web-only special about undergraduate public health education. The lead writer of another web special on bystander CPR rates is a current MPH student.

To expand the discussion, our website includes references for the articles, web-only special articles, and the full archive of back issues. We look forward to continuing the exploration of how public health is responding to current challenges and evolving community concerns in future issues.

Susan Allan, Editor-in-Chief
Director, Northwest Center for Public Health Practice
UW School of Public Health