Partner Profile: A Conversation with Dr. Raynard Washington

July 24, 2019

July 23, 2019

The Health Care Improvement Foundation’s (HCIF) Partner Profiles highlight the efforts of valued and innovative health leaders. Our partners’ work supports HCIF’s vision for a responsive, coordinated health care community that fulfills the needs of patients and consumers to achieve better health.

Dr. Raynard Washington, PhD, MPH, currently serves as Chief Epidemiologist at the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health (PDPH). PDPH and HCIF have collaborated on a number of different initiatives, including the Collaborative Opportunities to Advance Community Health (COACH) program and multiple grants addressing chronic disease burden in Philadelphia.

In his work at PDPH and with HCIF, Dr. Washington has spearheaded efforts to conduct the first-ever regional collaborative Community Health Needs Assessment for the Southeastern Pennsylvania area. This collaborative report was published on June 30, 2019, by 18 area non-profit hospitals. The assessment involved contributions from a wealth of stakeholders, including three county health departments; the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations; and the voices of community leaders, community-based organizations, and community residents across four counties (Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, and Philadelphia).

Our team asked Dr. Washington some questions about how his career led him to Philadelphia and the groundbreaking initiatives he’s currently working on to improve the health of the city.

“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life.”

mae jemison

How did you become interested in epidemiology?

My interest in public health and epidemiology grew out of a realization at a younger age that improvements in population health are largely driven by what happens outside of the doctor’s office. While in college, I spent a couple months in a rural area that lacked many basic health resources and public health infrastructure and experienced firsthand the need for systemically assessing and addressing the underlying factors that influence health. So, I began studying epidemiology – the science of public health. Using data to identify, understand and act, focused on preventable inequities, has become my life’s work!

What motivated you to join the Philadelphia Department of Public Health?

Working at a local health department, in one of America’s largest, most diverse cities is a dream come true for me. After working at the federal level, it became clear, that I wanted to be closer to the people and the action.  What better place than one of America’s largest, most diverse cities?! I see the lagging health indicators in Philadelphia as a leading opportunity to make a difference where it matters most.

What do you think people should know about the Community Health Needs Assessment?

The Southeastern PA Regional Community Health Needs Assessment is a tremendous, unprecedented collaboration for the region. It sets the stage for collaborative solutions to address the many challenges facing our communities. It provides the necessary information to stimulate focused action and accelerate our progress to reducing health inequities. The report is a tool, it’s now up to us, across public and private sectors, to put it to use!

What is one major community health issue or challenge that you would like to see addressed?

Closing preventable gaps. To do so, we must be intentional about understanding where gaps exist, what’s driving the gap, and target our solutions to the gap, not just the problem. That means deliberately investing in solutions and policies that are designed for communities experiencing economic, racial, gender, religious, or other disadvantage.

What have you found most valuable about working with HCIF?

HCIF is an incredible convener of healthcare stakeholders. Your ongoing work with hospitals is a model for other regions. HCIF is uniquely successful at facilitating partnership among healthcare stakeholders to address shared challenges with shared solutions.

What’s a quote that inspires you in your work?

“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life.” – Mae Jemison.

Luckily, Dr. Washington also knows how to relax when he’s not hard at work. When asked what he likes to do for fun, he answered: “Two things that always make me feel better – cooking and travel!” He’s planning a trip to Thailand in his future, and we hope he won’t be checking email while he’s there – but if you want to learn more about his work, you can email him at raynard.washington@phila.gov, or follow him on Twitter (@Raynard_W) and Linked In.

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