Trends and Issues in Higher Ed

October 12, 2016

The Next 25 Years: Focus Areas for Growth

On May 3, 2016, President Ana Mari Cauce launched a groundbreaking Population Health Initiative by inviting the University community and partners to join in developing a 25-year vision to advance the health and well-being of people around the world. By working across disciplines, we can strengthen our combined efforts to improve population health in the areas of human health, environmental resiliency, and social and economic equity.

We have identified five areas for focused interdisciplinary development and optimal achievement in population health over the next quarter century. These focus areas build on projects like those highlighted in this report, and will expand our ability to turn our understanding of health determinants into actionable policies, reforms, interventions and innovations. Together, we can ensure that every individual — whether in the Pacific Northwest or in the poorest countries of the world — has the chance for a truly boundless future.

What is population health?

Population health is a broad concept encompassing not only the elimination of diseases and afflictions, but also the intersecting and overlapping factors that influence health. These influencing factors include climate change, poverty, racism, transportation, health-care access, urban planning, governance, and many more. Together, these issues revolve around three major pillars—social and economic equity, environmental resiliency and human health—and affect the lives of billions of people around the world.

Education and Capacity Building

The UW will foster the next generation of leaders, thinkers and doers by developing collaborative and innovative education opportunities that address the complexities of population health. By engaging broadly across campuses, we will strengthen the impact of a UW education by recruiting and supporting the world’s best teachers. We will educate students for the increasingly interdisciplinary workforce in health, spur innovation and offer more diverse experiences in local, national, and global research. Finally, even for those students who do not choose a career in population health, their experience will inspire them to improve lives in new ways.

Christopher Brown of Growing Veterans

In the name of holistic mental health, Christopher Brown, ‘16, created Growing Veterans, a non-profit that connects veterans by growing sustainable produce for farmers markets and food banks.

Diagnostics and Critical Assessment

To improve our understanding of the world’s most pressing health needs and the determinants shaping health outcomes, we will expand and strengthen our ability to extract knowledge from data by drawing on data science and field research. As home to the world’s preeminent health measurement institution, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, we are committed to creating a world where using the best evidence is the basis for informed decision making and the guide to productive innovations and practices in public health and beyond. Through these efforts, we will strengthen the democratization, dissemination and use of data; reveal the complex intersections between human health and its social determinants; and create the most complete picture possible of the keys to increasing social equity and environmental resiliency.

Developing and Testing Innovation

Innovation is at the heart of our university. We hope to bring together the remarkable talents of our faculty and students in problem-focused research to respond to the challenges of population health. We are already well-positioned to develop, field and assess new interventions, processes and organizational mechanisms. We can bring to bear our experience and scale to deliver innovative preventive measures and care.

UW Medical residents in Kenya

Chief Medical Resident Josh Lacsina oversees UW medical residents at the hospital in Naivasha, Kenya where they train Kenyan medical students.

Implementation Science

In the United States, it takes 17 years on average — almost a generation — to turn original research into widespread practice and large-scale policies that benefit population health, such as through community interventions and/or changes in health care programs. And typically, only 15 percent of research evolves into practice and policy. In many low- or middle-income countries, research translation takes much longer. The UW is a global leader in implementation science, with our cutting-edge education and training programs being complemented by collaborative research activities in a range of programs. We will leverage our expertise in this rapidly changing research paradigm to ask and answer questions about how to deliver effective interventions to people who need them with greater speed, efficiency and quality. Implementation science is a rapidly changing research paradigm that provides a scientific approach to ask and answer questions about how to deliver effective interventions to people who need them with greater speed, efficiency, and quality.

Strategy and Planning

The 21st century has dawned with new patterns of immigration, greater workforce mobility and increased influence from private philanthropy. Through research and engagement, we are poised to empower governments, industry and donors with evidence, tools and the decision-making support they need to make the choices that benefit the most people, most efficiently. This scale of impact requires timely and well-informed strategy and planning. The UW has a unique expertise in strategy and planning, through the Evans School, the Jackson School, Economics, Computer Science & Engineering, Environmental Studies, the Foster School of Business, big data analysis and more. We are committed to inclusive, comprehensive long-range and data-driven planning to ensure the greatest influence and impact over the next 25 years.

Eric King
“I hope the Population Health Initiative will raise awareness of the social determinants of health and how those factors influence overall public health. In addition to raising awareness, I’d like to see some of the most disadvantaged local communities benefit from actions designed to improve their health and well-being.”

Eric King, Graduate/Professional Student Representative, Population Health Initiative Executive Council