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Synergy across chronic disease programs: An example from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Posted By Sara Ramey, Thursday, May 01, 2014
Untitled Document
Collaboration, integration, synergy, collective impact… whatever you call it, working with key public health partners can make efficient use of limited resources while increasing quality and reach of public health programs. Integration of chronic disease programs in public health departments has allowed for cross-cutting work on common risk factors and at-risk populations, including health care system changes, across programs that typically have worked in isolated silos.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) pathway to increased chronic disease integration started with organizational structure changes – centralization of epidemiology, evaluation, fiscal, and communication services. Soon thereafter, CDC selected Colorado and three other states to pilot combined chronic disease funding streams. CDPHE formed an integrated chronic disease leadership team, and the efforts of work units – newly organized along functional lines, including community-clinical linkages, health systems change, environmental approaches, and law and policy development – were increasingly evidence-based, executed at an enhanced level, and informed by science and data.
As part of the health systems change efforts, the Colorado Colorectal Cancer Control Program promoted colorectal cancer prevention and control efforts statewide by providing population-based strategies to increase screening rates and addressing the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended screening modalities through health systems change efforts. Through development of colorectal cancer screening policies, procedures, and protocols; client and provider-oriented reminder and recall systems; and staff training on USPSTF screening guidelines, this cancer program’s activities resulted in increased colorectal screening rates from 10 to 48 percent and from 16 to 29 percent in two Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).

Building upon its pilot integration and health systems change efforts, CDPHE is now using funding from CDC’s new collaborative chronic disease grant, “State Public Health Actions to Prevent and Control Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity, and Associated Risk Factors and Promote School Health” (a.k.a. “1305,” a nickname based on the RFA number) to increase the institutionalization and monitoring of aggregated/standardized quality measures at the provider and systems level. Part of CDPHE’s approach to this strategy is to combine efforts and resources across four grant programs: the Colorado Colorectal Cancer Control Program (CO CRCCP), the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP), the Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women Across the Nation (WISEWOMAN) program, and “1305.” Synergy!

To leverage promotion of screening for chronic diseases and related risk factors, CDPHE staff across these previously siloed programs revised the baseline assessment methodology to align measures with National Qualify Forum (NQF) standards and statistically validated the methods for establishing baseline cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes and tobacco screening rates among patient populations. In the near future, staff will establish comprehensive baseline screening rates in selected pilot FQHCs and will then conduct clinic site visits to:

  • Review the comprehensive baseline screening rates (cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes, and tobacco)
  • Determine concordance between chart audit findings and existing electronic health record reports
  • Evaluate existing clinic policies, procedures, and protocols
  • Collaborate with clinic staff to develop action plans for quality improvement measures to increase preventive screening rates. These health system change efforts are based on The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide) and How to Increase CRC Screening Rates in Practice: A Primary Care Clinicians’ Evidence-Based Toolbox and Guide
By working collaboratively and combining chronic disease grant funding, we will maximize our efforts in the promotion of health system change to institutionalize and monitor aggregated/standardized quality measures and increase screening rates for chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes in Federally Qualified Health Centers in Colorado. CDPHE staff have been able to determine the best way to integrate chronic disease programs and which strategies to implement and how based on data, evidence, and target populations. All states benefit from hearing what colleagues in other states are doing and what initiatives are making a difference. We welcome continued related discussion and sharing of experiences, challenges, and successes.
Renee Calanan
Chronic Disease and Oral Health Epidemiologist
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Tags:  chronic disease  collaboration  member spotlight 

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