President’s Update: June 2021

June 24, 2021 | Wendy Nickel, MPH

Over the past few weeks, I have begun to notice a palpable change in perspective within HCIF, among our staff, and in conversations with partners and stakeholders.  It’s a hopeful perspective, and although unspoken, seems to ask the question, “what can be?”  This change is undoubtedly related to increasing vaccination, a feeling that we are coming out the other side of COVID, and a timid willingness to begin thinking about the future. It’s the “what can be” that is the noticeable change, and not the “what will be” which has been streaked with trepidation and fear over the past 16 months.

It’s exciting to think about what can be in healthcare and the work we do at HCIF. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that intention is critical in our work. If we want to provide equitable care and achieve the best possible health outcomes, we must be intentional in setting up systems to produce these results. That means calling attention to the issues and conditions that create disparities and poor outcomes.  If I took a moment to think about “what can be,” it would be that we are intentional about the routine collection of racial, ethnicity, and language (REaL) data that allows us to evaluate the care we provide to different patient populations. With the launch of our Health Equity Data Strategy (HEDS) program this month, I believe we are on our way to supporting hospitals and healthcare organizations in developing intentional systems for this data collection and evaluation and that gives me great hope for making progress towards health equity.

I also believe what can be is a fervent commitment to collaboration among various stakeholders to create communities of health. These stakeholders include not only traditional healthcare providers, but employers, housing authorities, parks and recreation, and faith-based organizations.  This type of collaboration is evident in the Cities Changing Diabetes program, where numerous stakeholders have joined together to develop creative and innovative initiatives to support community-based prevention and management of diabetes.  Stakeholders include: organizations representing recently incarcerated individuals, food-based philanthropies, pharmaceutical companies, universities, and houses of faith, to name a few. Colorectal cancer screening disparities among Philadelphia African Americans provides another opportunity for collaboration among non-traditional stakeholders in order to intentionally remove barriers to screening.  The “Go to Know” program is a unique initiative led by WURD radio station, in partnership with Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Penn Medicine, Independence Blue Cross Foundation, and LabCorp to offer free screening kits and any required follow up care.

HCIF embarked on a strategic planning process this past month and what can be is very much at the core of this initiative. Although we are at the very beginning, our staff, Board members, and external stakeholders have identified several issues that will help shape our vision of what can be in the future. This includes equitable application of technology to support care, authentic engagement of patients and families to support achievement of health outcomes most meaningful to them, and developing a bridge between care provided in healthcare organizations and care provided in the community.

In a year plagued with unease and apprehension, it is refreshing to begin thinking of what can be.  This is our time to shape the future of healthcare – we’ve been given this gift of opportunity – let’s take advantage of it!

PS – If you have a vision for “what can be” in the future for healthcare and want to share your thoughts or ideas, please email me (!

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