Today marks a significant milestone for the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative as it operates for the first time without the infrastructure and leadership of the UAW/Ford Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI), the KHC’s convener since the coalition’s formation. As we reflect on this important change, let’s walk down memory lane with some of the history of the UAW/Ford CHI and how it came to convene the KHC.
In 2001, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Ford Motor Company formed the last of its Community Healthcare Initiatives in Greater Louisville, making it the eighth joint program between UAW and Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. The innovative program was formed years in advance of America’s National Quality Strategy focused on IHI’s Triple Aim framework of better health, better care, and lower healthcare costs. The initiatives were formed to develop a community healthcare delivery system that provided high value care and better health outcomes. While this strategy is commonly accepted today, it was groundbreaking at the time for a business to involve itself in healthcare.
In 2003, the Lewin Group conducted an 18-month comprehensive assessment of the health status, needs, and resources of Greater Louisville. All healthcare stakeholders were invited to join a group to develop a strategy for addressing the study’s findings and to identify the community’s top priorities. Those initial community members decided to form the Kentuckiana Health Alliance, now the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative, with a steering committee and taskforces focused on the selected priorities of chronic disease, obesity, tobacco, and soon after, quality of care. Today’s KHC Consolidated Measurement Reports were a result of those early priorities. The KHC became an independent non-profit in 2011 and hired its first full-time employee in 2015.
One of the common misperceptions around the UAW/Ford CHI was that the program was only focused on UAW/Ford employees, rather than the community at large. In fact, the program was designed to focus only on community health with the assumption that to address the health and healthcare needs of employees, efforts required a change in the entire health and healthcare ecosystem where employees and their families worked, played, and prayed. Another principal strategy of CHI was to gain critical mass of businesses and key healthcare stakeholders to change healthcare delivery systems. Therefore, the community initiatives looked to find improvement efforts that were not just focused on UAW and Ford workers but all citizens across all payers.
Since its inception, the KHC has strived to be a trusted and effective convener of community health in close partnership with the UAW/Ford CHI. Together, the organizations have worked towards the shared Triple Aim goals. As one of the Co-Directors, I could not be more grateful for the ability to serve the KHC, UAW/Ford CHI, and the Greater Louisville and Kentucky community. Today marks the first day in nearly a decade without Dr. Teresa Couts’ valuable leadership, and her contributions and those of the UAW/Ford CHI staff before her should be applauded. The success of the KHC has truly been the result of the willing collaboration of many organizations, and I am grateful for UAW/Ford’s significant investments in community health and the KHC over the last 20 years. UAW/Ford remains a key employer in Greater Louisville and thus remains a key stakeholder of the KHC’s current work.
As we look to the future, healthcare quality and affordability will continue to be one of the most urgent matters facing our nation, state, and community and an ongoing priority of the KHC. Additionally, improving the prevention, treatment, and recovery of opioid use disorder as part of the broader mental health and substance use disorder epidemic will remain a key priority of the coalition along with learning how to incorporate the social, economic, and environmental factors that influence health as part of all of our program work moving forward. It goes without saying that the impact of COVID-19 on our community’s health and our healthcare system is profound and no doubt will become a new priority of the KHC, as the virus strains our providers, government, businesses, and every community member and organization.
I am honored to serve as the new President and CEO of the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative. I am very optimistic about the future of the KHC and am confident that our team will continue the organization’s legacy of finding innovative solutions to the complex healthcare challenges that Kentucky and Southern Indiana face.