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A new guide lays out a 10-step framework to help organizations accelerate the achievement of their population health, well-being, and equity goals.
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10 Steps to Improved Population Health

By Tricia Bolender | Thursday, February 6, 2020

10 Steps to Improved Population Health

Photo by Lindsay Henwood | Unsplash

Over the last two years, Pathways to Population Health (P2PH) has grown into a movement of trailblazers working to accelerate the achievement of their population health, well-being, and equity goals. Through the use of such tools as the P2PH Framework and the Compass, this work has helped support and accelerate progress happening in the field.

Engagement with these tools has been exciting, with over 5,000 people downloading the Framework and well over 100 organizations using the Compass assessment tool. People from many of these organizations have told us that the Framework and Compass have been extremely useful in helping foster use of a common language around population health. Leaders have used the Compass to get change ideas based on their organization’s population health goals and current stage of development.

At the same time, we’ve also heard many important comments and questions:

  • Where do we begin?
  • These ideas are great, but how do we implement them?
  • How do we make this work a priority for individuals beyond our population health team?

Though the P2PH movement laid out our rationale for doing this work (the WHY) and used these beliefs to co-create what needed to be done (our framework), we realized we were missing guidance on how to do the work.


Join the Improving Population Health Action Community



With continued support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the next evolution of the P2PH movement was the development of tools to support testing and implementation of the improvement ideas laid out in the Framework and Compass. The Getting Started Guide: Accelerating Population Health Progress is the result of these efforts. It’s a 10-step framework to help organizations accelerate the achievement of their population health, well-being, and equity goals. An organization just starting their population health journey can use it. It can also help an organization deep into this work progress to the next level of their goals.

 10-Step Path to Progress

Building off the Will-Ideas-Execution model, the 10-Step Path to Progress outlines concrete steps for organizations:

  • Unleash intrinsic motivation to engage both the heads and hearts of stakeholders; it makes this work personal. It may mean sharing stories about why this work is meaningful to stakeholders or reviewing data together.
  • Link population health with an overall strategy by mapping population health work to your organization’s mission, vision, and values.
  • Learn with external stakeholders what matters most in your community by asking partners: What matters to you? Health care organizations can serve as an important convener in this process.
  • Take the P2PH Compass with stakeholders to help a cross-section of clinical, administrative, and community leaders identify strengths and opportunities, and determine how “balanced” its population health activities are across the four portfolios.
  • Prioritize sub-populations and health outcomes and
  • Prioritize changes to test and implement based on what you hear from stakeholders. To do this, you could convene a focus group with individuals with lived experience. You could use QI tools (such as a Pareto analysis) to select the most high-leverage change idea.
  • Utilize P2PH levers to map out concrete next steps with community partners by, for example, convening a multidisciplinary team to make a plan for your first test of change or Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA)
  • Build and strengthen internal alignment and external partnerships to co-execute in authentic relationship by understanding and leveraging people’s unique roles and responsibilities and bringing in an awareness of distributive power.
  • Leverage and strengthen quality improvement tools and skills and adapt in action by determining what works and making appropriate changes. One example of this is utilizing the Model for Improvement framework to guide your project work.
  • Track improvements by stratifying patient data by race, ethnicity, language, or other equity factors. This is an important way to ensure equity is woven throughout your work.

While will, ideas, and execution are presented in the framework as linear, in practice there will be more of a “braiding” of these three sections as all are needed for successful change. Some common themes across all the 10 steps include co-developing strategies with community partners, partnering with those with lived experience, and utilizing an equity lens throughout the entire journey.

Tricia Bolender is a quality improvement advisor and faculty for the Pathways to Population Health Action Community.

Editor’s note: Learn more about the upcoming Improving Population Health Action Community (April 2020 through March 2021) and how it can help your organization.

You may also be interested in:

WIHI podcast — Which Way is North? Setting Your Compass for Population Health 

Free Pathways to Population Health tools and resources, including case studies

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