Measuring the variables of a healthy community

Healthy Monadnock initiative considers how to accelerate change

Can a computer model improve the health outcomes of an entire community? The Healthy Monadnock initiative is aiming to find out.

A recent July 29 workshop featured several of Healthy Monadnock’s community partners and was led by ReThink Health, a nationwide program that partners with regional leaders and peer organizations to help build healthier communities. Healthy Monadnock’s goal is for the Monadnock Region to become the nation’s healthiest community by 2020. 

At the core of the ReThink program is its Health Dynamics Model, an interactive computer tool that helps leaders see the whole health system, experiment with how it can change, and better understand what that change will require. 

The beauty of the computer modeling program is that it takes into account many different variables that could potentially contribute to a healthier community, noted Rudy Fedrizzi, director of community health and clinical integration at Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth Hitchcock-Keene. 

“It is not one specific thing that accelerates change toward a healthier health system, and it can be different depending on the community,” said Fedrizzi, who is overseeing implementation of the ReThink Health program. “The computer modeling that ReThink Health provides is just one piece of a very complex action and puzzle that we are using to figure out our local unique health circumstances.”

The first step to discovering how best to use the modeling is to take it for a “test drive,” said Fedrizzi. “The computer modeling of a healthcare system can’t work without the human component – it takes thoughtful leadership to decipher what would be the best approach for our community.” 

Earlier this summer, a group of 20 community and health leaders met to test out various scenarios on the system, which has been customized with data reflecting the unique characteristics of our region. 

Edward R. Guyot, an accountant with Keene-based John G. Burk and Associates and a member of the advisory board of Healthy Monadnock, was one of the leaders who took the model on a test drive. 

“It was an opportunity to gain some in-depth understanding of the interdependencies of the components that we define as the ‘health care system,’” said Guyot. “The big takeaway was that a health care system’ is not just the medical community. Proactive health care, rather than reactive health care has a bigger impact on health than we think. And the model lets us explore things such as livable wage, access to education, access to transportation, and other indicators that are critical to a healthy community.”

The model also helps explore the costs to a community to put these initiatives into place, he notes. “Healthy Monadnock is promoting healthy living … this is a way to design it on paper and test our assumptions,” said Guyot.

Moving the needle

Eileen Fernandez, population health manager for the Cheshire Medical Center, also participated in testing the program. 

“Playing around with the modeling tool helps us to see what kind of difference the dollars we invest makes, rather than blindly guess how effective something might be. This will help us get the most bang for our buck,” said Fernandez.

For example, she said, investing resources in smoking cessation programs has a “huge positive impact on the expense of health care. It’s a great tool that shows what moves the needle in the health of our community.” 

Categories: Health